Overcrowding at the Idaho State Penitentiary prompted officials there to ask Utah to take 40 to 50 inmates off its hands, and about a dozen are being transferred to the Utah State Prison temporarily.
Jerry Cook, institutional operations director for the Utah corrections department, said Utah and Idaho have exchanged prisoners before when special needs arose, and it is likely such prisoner transfers will continue as the corrections departments in both states work to keep up with increasing demands for prison space.The Utah State Prison dealt with the same overcrowding problems before new cell space was finished recently.
Idaho will pay the cost of housing the prisoners, who could stay in Utah until the prison here needs the space and has to send them back. "Idaho understands that when we get feeling the crunch, as we have in the past, then if we can't assist them they'll have to take them back," Cook said. "We think we're going to be back in a crunch like we were previously."
The 10 to 12 inmates that are being transferred were selected by Utah officials from among the larger group Idaho wanted to export because they fit in with the population at the Utah State Prison that has the most available space, Cook said. He added that none of the prisoners is a maximum security inmate.
The decision to transfer the inmates was made during a meeting this week of the Idaho Corrections Board, where Ada County Sheriff Vaughn Killeen said his jail was built to house 173 inmates but now houses 215. About 35 of those have been sentenced to the penitentiary.
Transferring only a dozen or so out of the county jail won't help much, Killeen said. "A week later, it will be right back up."
A new maximum-security prison south of Boise and the expansion of an existing facility are expected to be full at the time they are completed sometime this fall.