Officials with the Idaho Department of Correction say up to 250 male inmates will be moved to a correctional center in Texas due to a shortage of beds in Idaho's prisons and jails.
"We're moving inmates who are furthest away from their parole hearing dates today and as they get closer to that date, probably within a year from that first parole hearing date, we'll bring them back to Idaho if we're still out in another state," said IDOC Director Henry Atencio. "That gives us the opportunity to program them and get them ready for their parole release."
Atencio says that he knows the move creates challenges for inmates and their families, but Idaho simply has no more room.
Carlos Gonzalez has a brother named Luis Gonzalez who is one of the inmates heading down to Texas. Gonzalez says his brother has five more years until he's up for parole. His main concern stems from not being able to visit him anymore.
"That's just something that both sides, him and us, look forward on a day-to-day basis or if it's just once a month," Gonzalez said. "That's something that motivates both of us to keep going ahead."
The Idaho inmates are headed to Karnes County Correctional Center in Karnes City, Texas, which is operated by GEO Group. Atencio says the overall growth in the state has contributed to overcrowding and fewer and fewer available beds.
Idaho has used GEO Group-operated prisons in Texas before, but pulled its inmates and canceled the contract after two Idaho prisoners died in two separate GEO facilities. The prisons were described as being "squalid" and horribly understaffed.
IDOC first sent inmates out of the state in June 1997 and they returned in November 1997. The department again sent inmates out of the state from October 2005 until April 2016.
All inmates headed to Texas are classified as medium custody. The date and time of their move has not been made public due to security concerns, but Atencio says the purpose of sending the inmates to Texas is to provide a temporary solution while they search for a permanent, long-term agreement for a prison provider.
Atencio says at this time they are waiting to hear back from different companies so they are not sure which state the long-term solution will be in.
Atencio also says an IDOC staff member will be in Karnes City when the inmates arrive to make sure they have their property, get checked in properly, and are adjusting. He also says an IDOC staff member will talk to the inmates on a regular basis to get a sense of how things are going.