Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Indiana Looks to Solve Prison Crowding Problem

States are struggling with huge budget deficients. Many policymakers are looking at ever growing prison costs as a means to reduce deficients. Pew Center on the States’ Public Safety Performance Project, discovered that Indiana’s prison count had grown by 41 percent between 2000 and 2009 — an increase three times that of neighboring states, reported the New York Times. Unless current policies were changed, the study said, the state prison population would rise by another 21 percent by 2017, forcing lawmakers to come up with an estimated $1.2 billion for new prisons.

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels has a plan to deal with the prison issue. According to the Times, his approach is a set of reforms governing sentencing and parole. Judges would be allowed to fit sentences to crimes and have the flexibility to impose shorter sentences for nonviolent offenses. A poorly structured parole system would be reorganized to focus on offenders who actually present a risk to public safety.

Addicts would be given drug treatment to try to make them less likely to be rearrested. And there would be incentives for towns to handle low-level offenders instead of sending them into more costly state prisons, reported the Times.

How will Governor Daniels deal with the "tough on crime" rhetoric which is responsible for the ever growing crimes code, longer prison stays and overcrowded prisons. If Indiana tries to solve its problems on the back-end (treatment and parole) without making meaningful changes to the front-end (sentencing)the prison problem will not go away. On the other hand if prison doors are arbitrarily opened to reduce costs public safety will suffer.

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