Women’s prison diversion program is win-win

Idaho State Journal Editorial

Each year, about 100 women enter the prison system in Idaho. Keeping at least one of those women out of the system could save taxpayers between $75,000 and $160,000 in capital costs alone, according to one firm’s estimate.
And taxpayer cost is only one benefit. While in prison, inmates are unable to be productive, contributing members of our society. They can’t help support their families, who not only must scrape to pay the bills, but suffer emotional distress while their loved ones are behind bars.

Idaho State Journal Editorial

Each year, about 100 women enter the prison system in Idaho. Keeping at least one of those women out of the system could save taxpayers between $75,000 and $160,000 in capital costs alone, according to one firm’s estimate.
And taxpayer cost is only one benefit. While in prison, inmates are unable to be productive, contributing members of our society. They can’t help support their families, who not only must scrape to pay the bills, but suffer emotional distress while their loved ones are behind bars.
That’s why the Pocatello Women’s Correctional Center’s proposed diversion plan could eventually become such a boon to our state and its citizens.
Through the plan, scheduled to start in January, some women who violate parole or probation will have the opportunity to see what prison is really like, and why they don’t want to go there. They will meet monthly at the Pocatello Women’s Correctional Center for training. The women will receive skills, and if the program succeeds, they’ll become productive members of society.
Warden Brian Underwood estimates he could keep up to 15 of those 100 women destined for prison out of the system. That’s a huge benefit, not just to the potential prisoner, but to their families and to our pocketbooks.
Everyone benefits when a would-be criminal becomes a productive member of society. They contribute to our tax base, and help support their families, keeping their children out of the Department of Health and Welfare system.
Of course, there are other options. We could continue as we are today, and in the next decade the overall inmate population rate could continue to grow 7 percent each year. Correctional planning firm Carter Goble Lee estimates Idaho will need beds for 5,560 more inmates over the next 10 years, at a cost of $1 billion.
Prisons are expensive, and the thought of having to build more in Idaho doesn’t make anyone feel good.
Diversion programs already in place, such as drug court, have proven effective. The Department of Corrections employees are still working out the details, but the Pocatello Women’s Correctional Center program sounds like it could help our society as well.