Recidivism and the Revolving Door of the Idaho Judicial System


It has a low crime rate, but one of the highest incarceration rates in the country. Idaho has even been called the "prison state" by some.

According to studies from the Department of Corrections, a large portion of those filling Idaho cells are repeat offenders. Known as recidivism, it happens when offenders commit new crimes or violate release conditions to land back behind bars, ending up in a revolving door of the judicial system.

Kevin Britain sat before Judge Jeff Brudie for sentencing Wednesday for burglary.

Judge Brudie recounts the crime, "This is 1:30 in the morning and alarms going off. This is when law enforcement adrenaline starts pumping, when they have to respond to an incident like this."

But tis isn't Britain's first time in this seat. Nor his third.

Nez Perce County deputy prosecutor Anne Kelleher says, "Besides the burglary for which he is being sentenced today, he has four other felony offenses."

Two of those came in the 1990's. Britain is just one in a number of Idaho offenders who, after being placed on probation, end up behind bars again.

According to a recidivism study conducted by the Idaho Department of Correction in 2013, 31% of probationers they surveyed (18,705) reoffended within a three-year period.

Judge Brudie says, "At the time of Mr. Britain's sentencing back in October of 2016, I had a hesitant probation recommendation from the department. And of course Mr. Britain has now violated that probation less than a year after being placed on it."

Britain committed another burglary while on probation, the one he's now being sentenced for. A 2010 IDOC statistics report shows that nearly 90% of all probationers violate their probation within the first year.

And in that 2013 study, the department reports 35% of all 18,000 offenders studied reoffended within three years.

Just a few years ago, Idaho had one of the highest recidivism rates in the country, prompting lawmakers to sign into law Senate Bill 1357 in 2014, called a justice reinvestment.

That's in the hope people like Kevin Britain turn their lives around.

Britain told the judge before he heard his punishment, "I'm done doing drugs and making stupid mistakes. I want to change that life."

Judge Brudie sentenced Britain to three to five years and also placed him on a rider program, a drug treatment program that could shorten his time in prison.

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