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'No shortage of inmates': Gooding County reopening jail annex
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'No shortage of inmates': Gooding County reopening jail annex

From the April crime report: Fugitive caught, missing kids, stabbing and more series
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Gooding County Jail food

Gooding County Sheriff Shaun Gough discusses the food budget April 11, 2019, at his office near the Gooding County Jail.

GOODING — After being closing for about 10 years, the Gooding County Sheriff’s Office is reopening a jail annex to house additional inmates.

Sheriff Shaun Gough said reopening this annex will open up 30 beds on top of the 21 at the county’s existing jail. This extra space is needed after last winter when, at one point, there were 11 inmates sleeping on the jail floor.

The number of people in the jail has since decreased, and on April 15, the county had one bed available. But that one bed can be filled quickly, Gough said.

Reopening the annex also opens up beds for other nearby counties dealing with overcrowding issues, such as Twin Falls, which completed a jail expansion last winter to deal with some of its own population problems.

“We had (the annex) open for several years,” Gough said, “but there came a time where was a shortage of inmates and we decided to close it. But now there seems to be no shortage of inmates and we need the space.”

During a meeting on April 12, the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners voted to opt of its existing contract to house inmates at the Jerome County jail and to instead house inmates at Gooding County.

Sheriff Rene King told commissioners that under the contract with Jerome County, his office paid for three beds to be reserved at all times. Because of this, even if Lincoln County did not have inmates to fill all the beds, it was still required to pay for them.

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King said the county will not have to sign such a contract with Gough’s office. Lincoln County will only pay for the beds it uses.

Gough said his office will charge other counties $65 a day per bed to house inmates in the annex. Aside from Lincoln, his office has already heard from Twin Falls and Camas counties.

According to minutes from the Gooding County Board of Commissioners meeting on March 29, the county has received about $104,000 in COVID-19 relief funding from the federal government to assist with the reopening.

About $45,000 will be used to buy and update equipment for the annex. The remaining funds will go toward the cost of hiring the eight deputies needed to run the annex.

“We have enough grant money to get rid of the mothballs and re-equip the annex at no cost,” Gough said.

This grant funding will only go toward initial expenses. Afterward, the county will have to cover the roughly $1 million it to costs run the annex. Some of these expenses will be covered by the fees other counties pay to house their inmates.

Gough said his office will start hiring staff for the jail annex in August with the intention of opening the facility in October.

HUDSON: "We're going to kill you through incarceration. We're going to kill you by sucking the very life out of you through incarceration, through the oppression of incarceration, through putting you in an environment where hope is around you, but not in you. That's what life without the possibility of parole says."As the inmate population has exploded in the U.S., so, too, has the number of people facing life imprisonment.According to a new study by the Sentencing Project, one in seven U.S. prisoners is serving a life sentence or "virtual life" sentence, meaning more than 50 years. If you narrow that to Black inmates, the number jumps to one in five. In total, about 203,000 Americans are set to die behind bars. In 1970, there were less than 200,000 people in America's entire prison system. Renaldo Hudson has had a whirlwind of a life, experiencing the highest highs and the lowest lows the criminal justice system has to offer. Hudson was sentenced to death for a crime he fully admits to committing. He confessed to robbing, stabbing and ultimately killing a neighbor in his apartment complex nearly 40 years ago. Hudson turned his life around after a stint in solitary confinement. He said all he had to listen to was a Walkman tape player.HUDSON: "On this tape, he was talking about who are you good for? Or are you good for nothing? Can anybody trust you? If you were to die today? Would anyone care?"After that point, Hudson got his GED then a bachelor's degree in a Christian studies. He severed ties with gangs in the prison and went on to create his own mentorship program called Building Blocks that boasts nearly 500 members.  HUDSON: "So you're absolutely correct when you said that my change wasn't predicated on me looking to be set free. It was completely motivated by me saying, 'I will not die with the world saying he was the most deserving of death.'"In 2003, with just two days left in office, former Illinois Gov. George Ryan commuted the death sentences of all 160 inmates on death row to life without parole.Fast forward 17 years, the current governor, J. B. Pritzker, granted Hudson's clemency petition making him a free man for the first time in nearly four decades.HUDSON: "When I walked outside of that prison I breathed for the first time in 37 years."As one of very few who has received not one but two governor's pardons from the most severe punishments America has to offer, Hudson says the two aren't that different. HUDSON: "People don't like telling the truth about the death penalty, which says, 'We [the state] will pay for the poison to actually kill you.' Life without the possibility of parole says, 'We're going to kill you, and we'll just release you once you die.'"While public support for the death penalty has steadily fallen over the past 25 years, 60% of Americans support life imprisonment as a preferred alternative. And the number of people serving life without parole has jumped 66% since 2003. But advocates and many experts say that harsh sentences like life imprisonment don't actually serve as a deterrent to crime.For Hudson's part, he says he is living proof no one is irredeemable.  HUDSON: "I can't even act like I don't understand why society fears us. But we're more than that. We're also your brothers and your cousins and your uncles and your fathers. And many of us have come to a place to say, 'Hey, I'm sorry that I wasn't a better person. But I have the potential to be better.'" 

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