Indiana is on the brink of making some major progressive changes to their criminal sentencing practices. Governor Mitch Daniels announced his support on Wednesday for sweeping changes that could ultimately save over a billion dollars in the next seven years. Not just fiscally responsible, these changes would also serve to halt the progression of the incarceration monster, a beast that caused Indiana’s inmate population to skyrocket 41% from 2000 to 2008.
In a report commissioned by the state, the Pew Center on the States and the Council of State Governments Justice Center revealed that Indiana had the fastest growing prison population in the nation. And of these, more than 55% of new incarcerations were for drug offenses and nonviolent thefts.
These two organizations made a series of recommendations to stop the prison growth and save the state an estimated $1.2 Billion between now and 2017. Though all of these recommendations haven’t been released to the public yet, the Governor is pushing lawmakers to get busy on drafting legislation to make them a reality. Some sources say legislators have already begun preparing such prison-reform bills they hope to pass in this upcoming session.
Sentencing reform holds crucial benefits not only to the state’s budget but also to public safety. By reserving prison for the most violent and highest risk offenders, the public can rest assured that their money is being spent to incarcerate those who truly pose a risk to their communities. Under current laws, judges have little to no discretion in who gets locked up—sending low risk drug offenders to the same fate as those convicted of violent crimes.
Governor Mitch Daniels and Indiana lawmakers in both parties stand poised to make changes to the current system. While legislation hasn’t been drafted yet, it’s important that an issue with this much seeming support not be allowed to fade as weeks pass. Show Indiana lawmakers you support efforts to cut costs and decrease the further over-incarceration of the Hoosier State.
Photo Credit: Bart Everson
I write this letter in show of support for changes within the Indiana criminal courts and ask that progress continue to be made on making the Pew Center recommendations a reality. In particular, judges should have greater discretion in sentencing non violent offenders to community correction supervision. The state’s probation system must be strengthened to provide the resources needed to keep offenders out of prison and as productive members of their communities instead.
Currently, Indiana has the fastest growing prison population. Left as is, the growth alone could cost the state more than an additional $1 Billion between now and 2017. Changes to current practices could curtail these astronomical costs and the cost to citizens who would be better served by treatment options within the community.
Please make every effort to see that Indiana reform their incarceration practices by drafting and enacting legislation to encourage community corrections above imprisonment for non violent offenders.
Thank you for your immediate attention to this matter.