Report says sentencing reforms can save cash, lower crime rates

August 10, 2011
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Is it possible to reduce crime rates and save money? Yes it is, according to the just-released American Civil Liberties Union report “Smart Reform is Possible: States Reducing Incarceration Rates and Costs While Protecting Communities.” The report studied six states that have historically been “tough on crime” – Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, South Carolina, and Texas – all of which have passed significant bipartisan reforms that promote alternatives to incarceration.

For example, in Kansas, new laws mandating drug treatment instead of prison for certain nonviolent drug offenses, rewarding counties for reducing parole and probation revocations, and expanding earned credits for education and treatment programs have led to an 18 percent drop in crime rates between 2003 and 2009. The number of people incarcerated dropped 15 percent and the state is projected to save more than $100 million by the end of 2012.

Even Texas is seeing lower crime rates and more than $2 billion in savings as a result of its sentencing reforms, according to the report.

Some in Indiana – including Gov. Mitch Daniels – hoped we’d become one of those states that could make sentencing reforms and see results. But the bill introduced in the 2011 legislative session actually ended up being amended to increase prison times and cost the state more money because of the need to build new prisons. The bill died, and the hope is to try again in the 2012 session.

The report dedicates about a page to Indiana’s attempts, and it says “Indiana remains a state at a crossroads: if state officials are serious about closing the deficit and reducing unnecessary incar¬ceration, they will pass legislation in 2012 that models the Governor’s original vision.”

Do you think next year sentencing reforms will pass here?

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