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Monday, July 11, 2016

Ind. Gov't. - "Can Indiana trade overcrowded jails for treatment reform?"

That is the headline to this very long Sunday Indianapolis Star story by Madeline Buckley and Kristine Guerra, subheaded: "Indiana's sweeping criminal justice reform is 2 years old. Is it working?" A few quotes:

The sweeping changes, passed in 2014, aim to make punishments more proportional to the crime by keeping nonviolent offenders out of prison. Instead, treatment programs would help defendants recover from mental health and substance abuse problems while serving their sentences in local communities.

The goal is to turn Indiana from a state that simply incarcerates to one that also rehabilitates. But is it working? * * *

So far, treatment programs remain underutilized in many counties. And too many inmates simply trade an Indiana Department of Correction prison cell for one in a county jail, where it is more expensive to house offenders — potentially costing the state hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Yet lawmakers, state officials and experts are urging Hoosiers to give the reform time to work.

Some of the reform's goals — such as not sending nonviolent offenders to prison — have been achieved, said Andrew Falk, senior fellow of the Sagamore Institute in Indianapolis, who is studying the effects of the sentencing reforms.

"But the goals that most Indiana citizens and legislators care the most about — crime rates, rehabilitation of ex-offenders and our prison population — are harder to measure in the short term," Falk said, adding that it will take several years before the public sees any tangible impact of the reform.

The kind of change that Indiana has set out to achieve is also seen on the national level, as lawmakers try to pass legislation that would reduce sentences for nonviolent federal drug offenses. Change of this magnitude not only takes time to materialize; it's also expensive. In Indiana, the price tag has reached millions, and that's just the beginning.

And as with any kind of change, let alone a massive one, there are growing pains. That includes an overcrowding problem that has put Marion County Jail, the state's largest jail, in "crisis mode."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 11, 2016 09:44 AM
Posted to Indiana Government