- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 7, 2015

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Robin Sandy, a longtime Idaho Board of Correction member and the first woman to serve as chairman, has retired after 18 years.

Sandy announced her retirement during a special meeting Wednesday, saying she was looking forward to traveling.

“I think it’s time I relax and do some other things,” Sandy told fellow board members J.R. Van Tassel and David McClusky, attending the board meeting by phone. “I put my time in and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

Sandy was first appointed to the Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole under then-Gov. Phil Batt, and remained on that board during Gov. Dirk Kempthorne’s term. She was appointed to the Idaho Board of Correction in 2006, serving under Govs. Jim Risch and Butch Otter.

Sandy’s fellow board members lauded her dedication, saying she brought valuable insight and institutional knowledge to the department during her tenure.

“You’ve done a marvelous job, and you’ve been an inspiration to me,” Van Tassel told Sandy. “The depth of knowledge I’ve gotten from you is encyclopedic.”

While she was chairman of the Commission of Pardons and Parole, Sandy presided over parole hearing of Claude Dallas, a mountain man who was convicted of voluntarily manslaughter in the deaths of two Idaho conservation officers. Dallas later escaped from prison before he was recaptured in California.

During her nine years leading the department, Sandy oversaw the first execution in Idaho in 17 years, when Paul Ezra Rhoades was put to death by lethal injection in 2011.

She also saw the department navigate deep budget cuts and staffing furloughs during the Great Recession and was responsible for turning a vacant warehouse that had once been part of a prison industry program into the state’s largest drug rehabilitation facility at the Idaho Correctional Center.

Idaho Department of Correction Director Kevin Kempf said the department planned to name the prison unit after Sandy.

She was a supporter of private prisons, expanding the number of Idaho inmates housed at the Idaho Corrections Center, which was then run by Corrections Corporation of America.

Despite reports of excessive violence and understaffing at the facility, she first rebuffed suggestions that the state should operate the facility. But after it became clear that CCA was violating its $29 million annual contract with the state and falsifying staffing reports to make it seem as if thousands of hours’ worth of unstaffed shifts were actually filled, Gov. Otter asked the board to have the department take over the prison.

She then voted in favor of the move and oversaw the transition of the state’s largest prison from private to a publicly run facility.

Sandy said Otter has a new person in mind to take her place, and said that announcement would come soon.

“I have greatly appreciated Robin’s hard work and dedication,” Otter said in a prepared statement. “Ensuring the public safety, while at the same time, safeguarding the taxpayer’s best interest is hard work which Robin accomplished with great skill.”

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