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Friday, July 05, 2013

Ind. Gov't. - "Life after prison: Local judge says funding makes it tough to keep people from coming back"

Amanda Beam of the New Albany News & Tribune had a very long story July 3rd about Indiana prison recidivism and its causes. A few quotes:

According to William Farrell, professor of criminal justice at Indiana University Southeast, incarcerating nonviolent offenders only exasperates the problem.

“The trend over the last 40 years or so has been get tough on crime, and the war on drugs is a part of that. The way this has manifested itself is in large-scale incarceration. We incarcerate five times as many people now as we did in 1980,” Farrell said.

Amazingly, the number of violent offenders imprisoned hasn’t changed in the last 30 years. In fact, it’s stayed the same. What has increased is the number of first-time, nonviolent drug users.

“That’s a problem because for these people, prison seems to make them worse. And we incarcerate them for very long periods of time with very little to do, which means when they get out, they’re still drug-dependent,” Farrell said. “But now they have two problems: they’re drug addicts and they’re ex-cons.”

Clark County Circuit Court Judge Dan Moore understands the difficulties those recently released from prison face. Despite his and probation officer Denise Poukish’s efforts to help former inmates adapt, the recidivism rates are troubling.

Cash-strapped counties do what they can despite limited resources and heavy caseloads. Risk assessments aid in identifying potential problems, but funds and time to provide the programs aren’t always easy to come by.

“We can pinpoint where the needs are now. But the problem is it’s the time.” Poukish said. “When you’re sitting on a caseload of 200 offenders, it’s nearly impossible with all the other responsibilities probation has, and the courts too, to spend that time with them.”

Moore said unfunded state mandates don’t make matters any easier.

During the past few legislative sessions, he said the Indiana General Assembly has attempted to divert some of the state prison population to the county level. Overcrowding continues to be a concern for many corrections agencies. Yet, Moore laments that no money nor additional resources accompany the shift.

“Funding is going to be the name of the game,” Moore said. “Prisoner management is really becoming a big part of our job. We’re really hoping the money will follow the order right down I-65 [from Indianapolis] so the county can be helped.”

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 5, 2013 06:40 PM
Posted to Indiana Government