Sunday, March 23, 2008

Something Happening Here

Reading the Idaho State Journal on a Saturday is a crap shoot, but this morning my eye meandered to the right hand corner of the front page where the governor's photo was accompanied by a four by two inch-square story on his recent veto of drug treatment funding legislation.

This in addition to news (thankfully given a thumbs down by the ISJ, despite their thumbs up of Marvin Richardson a.k.a. "Pro Life" being on the ballot come November) that the Idaho Department of Corrections is planning to send another 240 inmates out-of-state, this time to Oklahoma, by July due to overcrowding.

The AP story on Otter's veto hit many of the points an earlier piece by Eye on Boise's Betsy Russell mentioned earlier, including Governor Otter's assertion that Idaho's current program have been ineffective. The veto essentially cuts in half the amount of funding for drug courts, treatment for parole and probation, as well as some programs for women and minors. The ISJ piece notes that the drug court system in Bannock County will continue, but it is unclear as to how the veto will impact local funding.

Something is definitely happening here, the specifics of which are not particularly obvious.

First, we have this overcrowding problem that we can only assume will be addressed by a new facility. However, we have a legislature that doesn't seem to think that there are any problems with the laws on the books for sentencing those who need drug treatment. This is the legislature that has been continuously slapped down and publicly criticized by Governor Otter for various positions they have taken since the session began. All of this occurring when, as legislators themselves have cited, an overall change in approach--that of placing money into the prison system to the efforts to fund treatment. So we are going to pay for a new facility and we're going to cut treatment funding? If there has been a switch to supporting treatment none of that previous sentence makes any sense. Nor does the blocking of House Bill 516 that would give judges authority to require drug treatment rather than incarceration where appropriate.

Should the consensus be in fact that the Idaho legislature and the governor's office have in the recent past shifted from pouring money into prisons to funding drug treatment and rehabilitation, it sounds to me like somebody didn't get the memo.

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