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On the Move Again

Idaho prisoners get the Texas shuffle

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Idaho inmates serving time in a Texas prison are on the move again. Their transfer, from one Texas facility to another, will take place within two weeks. They were originally shipped to Texas because of overcrowding in Idaho, but now the Texas prison wants their beds back.

The decision to put Texas prisoners in Texas cells will shuffle 419 Idaho inmates from a Newton, Texas facility to new digs at the Bill Clayton Detention Center and the Dickens County Correctional Center in Texas. And those moves won't be the prisoners' last.

The shuffle comes after two inmates decided to move themselves out of their Newton, Texas cell in June. Their prison escape happened amid complaints about crowded housing facilities, unexplained solitary confinement and inadequate resources. Idaho corrections officials say the move has nothing to do with the complaints.

Idaho Department of Correction Director Vaughn Killeen said the state is developing a long-term solution that would keep Idaho prisoners in Idaho cells. The Texas situation was one factor that may have contributed to the departure of former Corrections boss Tom Beauclair, who retired suddenly after a meeting with Gov. Jim Risch. Beauclair has since stated otherwise.

"The process of creating new bed space is a top priority for the state of Idaho," said department spokeswoman Melinda O'Malley Keckler.

The Idaho Department of Corrections was in the middle of working with Newton officials to address some of the prisoners' complaints. Those complaints included concerns about safety and difficulty communicating with family. At press time prisoners could telephone family members from the Newton facility. But that contact came at a high price. Collect calls from Texas prisoners cost about $4 for the first minute and 55 cents for each additional minute.

Families won't know exactly when inmates have arrived at the new facilities. Information about the dates and times of inmate transfers are kept under wraps until after prisoners make the move. O'Malley Keckler said the stealth transfer is for the safety of the inmates.

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