Idaho tries to reduce high female prison rate

Incarceration • State has 111 women in prison for every 100K residents; Utah has 43.
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Boise • Idaho has the second highest rate in the nation of women being held in prison.

The Idaho Statesman reports that the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics lists Idaho as having 111 women in prison for every 100,000 residents in 2011. Utah incarcerates 43 women for every 100,000 residents. Oklahoma has the nation's highest rate at 121 women.

Overall, Idaho's incarceration rate ranked 11th nationally with 471 or every 100,000 residents under state or federal jurisdiction for more than a year. The incarceration rate for men ranks 14th nationally.

Idaho Correction Director Brent Reinke is on the Criminal Justice Commission and previously spent a decade running the Department of Juvenile Corrections.

"I saw many kids pass through that system that had parents that were incarcerated," he said. "Unfortunately, many of those young people are now in prison. It's kind of a revolving door."

In an attempt to break that cycle in Idaho, the director for the state Department of Health and Welfare, Dick Armstrong, used $30,000 in federal money to pay for two small, two-year pilot programs at schools in Vallivue and Boise districts.

"We hope that by getting these kids early, they can escape that 'cradle to prison pipeline,'" said Ross Mason, Region 4 director at the Department of Health and Welfare. "These kids can see that life goes on without both parents around."

He said absenteeism is higher among those students, so the program takes aim at that problem.

"If we can get the kids to school, we think the academics will improve," Mason said. "If the academics improve, we think the behavior improves. That's the hypothesis."

He said the pilot programs might become part of a request to lawmakers to pay for more such programs. He said the cost would be $3,000 annually per school with a dozen students taking part at each school.

"The payoff is that the child who might have followed mom or dad's footsteps to prison might not," he said.

Information from: Idaho Statesman,