The letter goes on to describe the facilities and makes a point that there was “not an iron bar in the house.” Even so, residents were commonly called inmates and were committed for life, albeit with the possibility of parole.
The community of Blackfoot was eager to have the facility on the outskirts of town. It meant jobs, and it gave local entrepreneurs the opportunity to bid on building materials in the early days, and the provision of supplies ongoing. Issues of the local papers in the years following the 1886 opening of the Idaho Insane Asylum were filled with advertisements to bid on providing clothing and food for the inmates. The list of needs went nearly A to Z, from “Apricots, evaporated” to “Yeast, magic.” The facility needed firewood, shoes for men and women, balls of darning cotton, coal, suspenders, buttons, and much more.
Once called the Idaho Insane Asylum, and later the South Idaho Sanitarium, the facility is today called State Hospital South. Residents are no longer called inmates, and the goal is providing effective treatment and recovery of Idaho's most seriously mentally ill citizens to enable their return to community living.
To Idaho’s credit the facility looks a bit like a college campus. It is located on 480 acres—most of which is leased for farming. State Hospital South has a $19 million annual budget with 300 full-time employees, serving an average of 115 patients at any given time.