Gov. praises prison tent
Idaho's governor gave the head of prisons bragging rights over a new structure housing 100 new inmates on display.
"We are keeping Idaho prisoners in Idaho," Risch said. "We have brought a new focus to education and treatment and raised the morale of our hard-working employees."
A $1.47 million "sprung" structure opened at the Idaho State Correctional Institution on Sept. 11. The circus-tent-like facility houses 100 inmates who are aging or have special medical needs. A conventional structure would have cost $2.2 million, Risch said. The new facility has pliable walls and sits just feet away from the prison's infirmary. The new energy-efficient digs have an orderly, provide just enough room for prisoners to store personal items under bunk beds and in nearby lockers.
The announcement comes on the heels of budget constraints that forced the state to ship 419 inmates to a Texas prison. That move put prisoners in inadequate housing facilities that lacked rehabilitative programs and resources according to prison watchdogs and detainees. Those prisoners were eventually moved to another Texas prison and were slated for yet another move after that. The shuffle came after two inmates decided to move themselves out of their Newton, Texas cell in June. The prison escape happened amid complaints about crowded housing facilities, unexplained solitary confinement and inadequate resources.
Risch said Killeen's accomplishments come at a time when the state prison system takes in more prisoners than they let out. He said this is partly because some prisoners were unable to complete rehabilitation programs and classes that were required for parole.
"We have not been doing very well at meeting these benchmarks but now we are," Risch said. "Everybody here [in prison] has a family and returning them to their family is important."