Former Gov. Robert E. Smylie says the state of Idaho is spending as much now to run its prison system as it spent for all of state government when he was chief executive.

He said the state isn't gaining much ground on its prison problems, and called for new approaches to criminal sentencing.In a weekend newspaper column, Smylie said the proposed next budget for the Department of Corrections is $47 million, the amount that it took to run all of state government in 1956. "Yet we `correct' few felons," he said.

"The statistics are astounding. They suggest nothing that we have been doing is effective," Smylie said.

"The escalating cost of criminal justice - and the Department of Corrections budget represents but a small part of it - proves we are not solving the problem of crime on our streets and in our homes," he said.

Rehabilitation works in some cases but is not the cure-all, Smylie said. Prosecutors and others have pressed for tougher and tougher sentences for defendants, which has filled all the prisons to capacity, he said.

"Our only hope is to cut the number of people who must be incarcerated. We will need to rethink our whole approach to sentencing.