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Idaho Removes Some Prisoners from Texas Private Prisons

This story is a few weeks old at this point, but it certainly is worth a mention.  Idaho, the state with the most out-of-state prisoners held in private lock-ups in Texas has decided to bring some of its inmates back to prisons within its borders.  According to the Associated Press ("Idaho brings 80 inmates back from Texas, Oklahoma," October 1),

For a decade, Idaho has been shipping some of its prisoners to out-of-state prisons, dealing with its ever-burgeoning inmate population by renting beds in faraway facilities.

But now some groups of prisoners are being brought back home. Idaho Department of Correction officials are crediting declining crime rates, improved oversight during probation, better community programs and increased communication between correction officials and the state's parole board.

The number of Idaho inmates has more than doubled since 1996, reaching a high of 7,467 in May. But in the months since then, the population has declined to 7,293 -- opening up enough space that 80 inmates housed in the North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayre, Okla., and at Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas, could be bused back to the Idaho State Correctional Institution near Boise. The inmates arrived Monday night.

Of course, shipping inmates over 1,000 miles away to a largely unregulated private prison system can create pretty gruesome consequences.  Idaho's "virtual prison program" and Texas' private prison system more generally came under scrutiny after the tragic suicide of Scot Noble Payne, who died at GEO's Dickens County Correctional Center in 2007. 

Another Idaho inmate, Randall McCullough, killed himself in GEO's Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield earlier this year after being held in solitary confinement as an administrative penalty for a fight.  According to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards September 1st population report, the Bill Clayton center held 371 contract prisoners, presumably all Idaho prisoners, meaning a significant amount of Idaho prisoners will remain in Texas for the time being.

Why Texas continues to allow the importation of out-of-state prisoners to state private prisons when we clearly have our own in-house problems baffles me.  We'll keep you posted on developments. 

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