BOISE — The man who served as the lead deputy at the Idaho Department of Correction has been named as the next head of the agency.
The Idaho Board of Correction announced Wednesday that Henry Atencio will take over as director later this month for Kevin Kempf, who resigned Monday to take a leadership role with the Association of State Correctional Administrators, a national organization.
Atencio is the agency’s deputy director and has worked in the state prison system for 26 years. Atencio will officially take over for Kempf on Dec. 16, overseeing a staff of nearly 2,000 and an annual budget of $220 million.
“As a board, we were lucky because the department’s leadership team is packed with outstanding leaders,” Debbie Field, chairwoman of the Idaho Board of Correction, said in a statement. “Ultimately, we decided Henry is the best choice because of his thorough knowledge of the department and his vision for the future.”
As deputy director, Atencio has overseen the day-to-day operations for the Idaho Department of Corrections and led its efforts to implement the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, the prison reform effort adopted by state lawmakers two years ago. The initiative looks for ways to increase supervision of dangerous offenders while diverting non-violent offenders away from prisons and into community treatment programs.
“Over the past two years, the Idaho Department of Correction has emerged as a national leader in the field of corrections,” Atencio said. “I’m eager to build on that momentum by focusing on public safety while giving offenders meaningful opportunities to turn their lives around.”
Atencio, native of Parma, started as a probation and parole officer in Payette. He then advanced to a variety of administrative roles, including manager of the Division of Probation and Parole’s District 4 office, deputy warden at Idaho State Correctional Institution and before being named deputy director.
“Henry and I came up through the ranks together, and I know he’s more than ready for this challenge,” Kempf said. “I can say with confidence that Idaho’s correctional department will be in good hands.”
The three-member Idaho Board of Correction oversees IDOC and appoints its director. The Idaho Senate must ratify Atencio’s appointment during the upcoming legislative session, which begins Jan. 9.
As director, Atencio will oversee the entirety of IDOC’s operations including its nine prisons, four community re-entry centers and seven probation and parole districts. The agency is responsible for the supervision of 22,000 felony offenders.
Atencio is a 1991 graduate of Boise State University. He lives in Canyon County with his wife and two teenage sons.