A new report from the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy shows that over the last 35 years the state’s imprisonment rate increased five-fold, making it the state with the 13th highest incarceration rate in the nation and outpacing all 6 neighboring states. The imprisonment rate has shot up from 88 to 490 per 100,000 Idahoans between 1978 and 2016.
Spending on Idaho prisons is also poised to take up a much larger share of the budget than in generations past. From 1992 to 2017 Idaho experienced the eighth-highest spending increase on corrections in the nation when adjusted for inflation. Corrections spending currently makes up about 7.8 percent of the state budget, up from 4.9 percent in 1992.
In addition, policymakers have increased funding for prisons at a faster rate than funding for education. State spending on higher education rose by 26 percent between 1992 and 2017 and by 87 percent for K-12 schools while prison spending jumped by 204 percent.
Meanwhile, 13 states were successful in both reducing their prison populations and prison costs in recent years: New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Texas. These states used a combination of strategies to shrink prison populations and reduce costs while maintaining relatively lower crime rates.
“Idaho prison costs take up an ever-larger share of state resources. Many other states have shown that operating prisons effectively and efficiently frees up resources for investing in things that help Idaho communities thrive such as schools, roads, and health care. Prison costs have come down while maintaining relatively low crime rates,” said Alejandra Cerna Rios, policy director at the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy. “Policymakers will soon need to make wise choices about the allocation of dollars between prisons, education, and other public services.”
To continue reading this report, please open the PDF here.