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 Letter to Warden - Inmate Mail

E-mail to Governor Kempthorne, 

I sent the Governor a snail-mail on the 16th of this month.   I received a letter from Inmate Elias Custodio, #56658, that he has been released from over a year of Lockdown.  He was very happy and thanked me for the letter I sent in December about his being locked down due to his being Hispanic. 

He mailed letter on March 14, 2003, and said he had been released 3 days ago.  Elias was happy as he has worked out with old friends, played basketball, he went outside for few hours, and even saw the moon come up!  These little things mean so much. 

Thank you Idaho for taking care of this matter when brought to your attention, even though it took from December till April.  Now if only we could get some of the same done here in California! 


Prisoner been on Lockdown two years because of race!
 Sandoval Lockdown Letter

 Idaho Jury

Idaho inmate dies in California prison

Associated Press - May 30, 2008 1:24 PM ET 

LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) - An Idaho inmate convicted of killing a woman 15 years ago in northern Idaho has died in a California prison.

Authorities say Joey Dean Schneider, 43, was found Monday in a high-security facility in Corcoran, California. Officials say Schneider hung himself in his cell.

Schneider and his cousin, Raymond Schneider, were convicted in 1993 of killing Lourie Lynn Cyrus Weber, 31, of Clarkston, Wash., after meeting her in a north Lewiston bar. Police say she was raped, then hit over the head with a fire extinguisher and buried.

Joey Schnieder was serving life in prison without parole. He was transfered to California in 1998 after escaping three times from Idaho prisons.

Idaho corrections officials are reviewing circumstances of his death.

Information from: Lewiston Tribune, 

Magic - Twin Falls

October 31, 2007 4:45 PM MDT 

Rising gang violence in Idaho prisons further cramps space

BOISE, Idaho - A recent rise in prison-gang violence has forced the Department of Correction to add more solitary cells to the facility that houses Idaho's most-dangerous inmates, worsening overcrowding that's already resulted in 550 inmates being sent to private lockups thousands of miles away.

Much of the recent violence is between rival Hispanic gangs that some inmates join for protection, prison operations chief Pam Sonnen told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Last week, her agency began converting 64 double cells at the Idaho Maximum Security Institution south of Boise into "administrative segregation" units for single prisoners who have broken rules and must be isolated. The state prison system simultaneously loses 64 beds, meaning even more inmates will be sent more quickly elsewhere.

In September, 120 inmates were shipped to Oklahoma; in December, another 120 will go to the same facility, run by private-prison operator Correction Corporation of America.

"We have had an increase in gang activity that has resulted in an increase in assaults on inmates, an increase in requests for protective custody, an increase in assaults on staff and an increase in disruptions," Sonnen said. "Unless you keep the leadership separated, they're out recruiting."

The Legislature in January is expected to debate whether Idaho should build a large new prison itself or allow a private prison company to do it. Idaho wants to bring inmates sent to Texas and Oklahoma back home, as well as accommodate a population of 7,400 that's growing by 7 percent a year.

Since they were first sent elsewhere in 2005, Idaho inmates have been moved twice at facilities in Texas after reports of abuse by guards. Prison Director Brent Reinke conceded earlier this year that Idaho didn't adequately monitor its out-of-state inmates, leading to miserable conditions. The mother of an Idaho inmate who killed himself filed a $500,000 negligence claim against Idaho.

Still, problems aren't confined to Idaho's out-of-state inmates, and that's what has spurred the need for more segregation cells.

Gang members now make up just 8 percent of Idaho's roughly 20,000 inmates, probationers and parolees, Reinke said in an October mailing to state lawmakers. But members of these illegal groups committed 80 percent of violent incidents at prisons in Idaho since April, according to the prison agency.

For instance, on Oct. 3, 21-year-old Christopher Conaty stepped into the recreation yard at the Idaho State Correctional Institution near Boise. Minutes later, Conaty, serving a seven-year sentence for burglary and grand theft, was beaten by several inmates. Though Sonnen declined to comment _ detectives from Ada County are investigating _ she said the attack that left Conaty with non-life-threatening cuts to his back and neck was likely gang-motivated.

Conaty didn't immediately grant a request for an interview.

In particular, recent violence has flared between rival "Nortenos" and "Surenos" gangs, Idaho officials said.

Norteno and Sureno gang distinctions emerged 30 years ago as Hispanic street gang members staked out turf in northern and southern California, Malcolm Klein, a professor at the University of Southern California's Social Science Research Institute in Los Angeles, told the AP. Gradually, prison wardens and corrections officials, including in Idaho, adopted the terms to describe rival Hispanic prison gangs, he said.

In addition to Nortenos and Surenos, Idaho inmates also join the Aryan Brotherhood, a white supremacist prison gang. These groups promise some protection in the insecure world behind bars, Klein said.

"They get the feeling that their only safety comes in numbers of their own kind, whatever 'kind' means," he said.

But none of these violent gang members are among inmates that Idaho ships out to ease overcrowding, Sonnen said.

Instead, Idaho has been sending its more easily managed, lower-risk offenders, including many sex offenders, to for-profit lockups in other states, because they are the only ones private prison companies will accept.

A consequence has been that inmates left in Idaho are generally more dangerous, meaning more inmates must be housed by themselves, she said.

"We need to manage this so our inmates feel safe in our facilities, so they don't need to join a gang to feel safe," Sonnen said. "Most inmates want a safe facility to live in _ they don't want violence, they don't want assaults, they don't want to join a gang. If they're so worried about the danger, they're not going to worry about the treatment programs."

A service of the Associated Press(AP


Article published Aug 19, 2004

Packed prisons may cost Idahoans millions more
Officials blame rise in number of inmates on sentencing practices

Idahoans may be asked to pay significantly more to run the state's bloated prison system next year, which would put a bigger squeeze on other state services all vying for a share of $2 billion from taxpayers.

Prisoners and parolees also may have to pay more to defray the cost of their supervision.

Idaho Department of Correction managers said Wednesday the agency needs another $6.7 million in general funds just to make it through the current budget year, which ends June 30.
Next year, the department may need $128 million from taxpayers to operate, according to budget drafts submitted Wednesday to the Board of Correction. That's an increase of more than 15 percent.

There are 500 more inmates behind bars today than a year ago. As of this week, the state's 6,316 prisoners are just 21 shy of what the expected headcount was supposed to be by next summer. The prison system has a total operating capacity of 5,713, forcing the department to add cots to prison cell blocks and barracks-style tents to the minimum-security prisons at St. Anthony and Boise. The department also is considering shipping inmates out of state if the space crunch continues.
Correction Director Tom Beauclair said the increase in demand for cells is largely the result of judges sending more and more convicted felons to the state's 120-day prison at Cottonwood instead of putting them on probation.

Cottonwood is considered a diversionary program a step in between prison and probation. Beauclair said judges are finding Cottonwood's program to have improved in the past year, so they're sending more felons there.

The agency's proposed budget, a work in progress that still must be reviewed by the governor and the Legislature, calls for taxpayers to underwrite hundreds of additional beds in prisons and county jails throughout the state.

The budget also asks for 96 more workers, bringing the total to 1,523.

The budget also calls for felons to pay more through higher supervision fees ($50 a month instead of $40) and higher fees to be paroled out of state. Beauclair said he will ask the Legislature for a $100 fee that he can assess convicts to defray the cost of conducting pre-sentence investigations.
"We've got to figure a way besides general funds to apply towards growth," Beauclair said. "I think it's appropriate that offenders pay their way."

Inmate advocate Kelly Winberg said the fees will make it harder for people in the correction system.

"A good share of them don't have any money. It's going to put them more in debt," Winberg said.
Winberg also frets about the prospect that inmates could be shipped out of state which Beauclair called a last resort.

It can cost the state up to $55 a day per person for another state to house Idaho inmates, while holding inmates in state cells can cost less than $44 a day.

It's even cheaper less than $26 a day for inmates to stay in Idaho community work centers, which allow them to have jobs during their sentences. But the inmates have to be trustworthy enough to release into the community and oftentimes work center beds are full.

Winberg plans to use the prison population issue to reignite the fight for sentencing reform.

But state policymakers so far have no plans to consider revamping the state's sentencing laws.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Denton Darrington has opposed such a move and will likely continue to do so.

"The first question you ask is, 'Are the people in prison there because they did the crime?'" Darrington said. "Ask someone who has had their vehicle stolen, their home broken into and ransacked, if that person should be in prison."

Kempthorne spokesman Michael Journee said significant prison reforms, such as those implemented a few years ago, won't happen as long as the state's budget is precariously balanced. The governor, at that time, embarked on a plan to pump more money into prison drug treatment programs in 2001, but the funding was quickly pulled back after the state's economy entered a tailspin.

"The governor is looking at a number of possibilities that would help ease the burden in corrections," Journee said.

"Hopefully, before the end of the governor's term, he will have an opportunity to revisit those corrections reforms he talked about a few years ago. But the current budget situation has frankly put that into question."

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