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Partnership targets Indiana's corrections system

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To address Indiana’s growing prison population and increasing related costs, the state is partnering with The Pew Center on the States and the Council of State Governments Justice Center for the first comprehensive review of the state’s criminal code and sentencing policies since 1976.


Indiana is participating in the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, officials announced this morning in Gov. Mitch Daniels’ office. The project aims to improve public safety by reducing the number of offenders in Indiana’s prisons, reduce recidivism, and to better manage corrections costs.


The state’s prison population has grown 47 percent in the past 10 years from 19,309 in fiscal year 2000 to 28,389 in fiscal year 2010. In that same period, the Indiana Department of Correction’s appropriations from the general fund increased 76 percent. Despite those increases, Daniels noted the state addressed the population increase without new construction by being more efficient and better management of prison capacities.


Daniels, with the support of Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard, bipartisan legislative leadership, and Attorney General Greg Zoeller, sought assistance from the Public Safety Performance Project of The Pew Center regarding sentencing and other corrections issues.


The project will analyze Indiana’s crime, arrest, conviction, jail, prison, probation, and parole supervision data. It will also include a system-wide examination of the state’s prison population, drivers of prison growth, and strategies currently used to increase public safety. The CSG Justice Center will interview people from prosecutors, public defenders, and law enforcement officials to victims, their advocates, and service providers, among others. The new 13-member Justice Reinvestment Steering Committee, comprised of various Indiana stakeholders, will review the analysis and make recommendations while working with the CSG Justice Center on policy options.


Adam Gelb, director of the Public Safety Performance Project of The Pew Center, said the project will help Indiana going forward rein in prison spending. He also noted Indiana is not starting from “ground zero” because there are “a lot of essential building blocks here in Indiana.”


Such essentials include drug and other problem-solving courts that look at options other than prison for offenders.


More than 2,000 times a day, Indiana’s trial court judges are deciding sentences for offenders, looking at what would be the “smart” sentence for the offender and the situation, Chief Justice Shepard said. “There are alternatives to prison. Many programs are led by trial judges. … It’s a great opportunity to cooperate with the other two branches.”


However, Chief Justice Shepard told Indiana Lawyer that five times as many felons in Indiana are serving sentences in various ways as part of a “whole constellation” of programs that are not prison.


Indiana’s monetary commitment is $100,000, which is paid for with federal grant monies through the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. The Pew Center and the CSG Justice Center have also received funding from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Bureau of Justice Assistance to advance the initiative. As a participant, Indiana will be eligible for future funding from the BJA.


Daniels said Pew has shown it ability to work fast in other states and officials here hope to see analysis in the third and fourth quarters because they want to be able to make recommendations in January for the legislature to address in tandem with the budget. The Indiana General Assembly’s 2011 session will set the state’s next biennial budget.


Daniels also said a surprising percentage of prisoners are there for a “very short period of time, suggesting we’re a little out of whack.”


The average sentence for an Indiana prisoner is 18 years and 10 months, according to information provided by the governor’s office. However, this is an increasing number of low-risk offenders being sentenced to prison for short period of time. In 2009, 4,583 offenders were sent to the Department of Correction for a fixed term of less than 90 days; of those, 1,361 were in prison for 30 or fewer days.


As states nationwide have addressed ways to reduce incarceration rates, Indiana’s rate of incarceration continues to climb at a rate much higher than the national average. Using 2000 to 2007 figures, Indiana ranked seventh in the nation for rate of incarceration. In 2009, Indiana was in fourth and likely will be in second behind Alabama once Florida and Pennsylvania’s sentencing reform measures take effect, according to U.S. Department of Justice statistics.


Once the legislature adopts new policies, the CSG Justice Center will help the state translate the policies into practice, keep track of any effects, and keep state officials up to date.



 

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  1. Welcome to Hendricks County where local and state statutes (especially Indiana Class C misdemeanors) are given a higher consideration than Federal statues and active duty military call-ups.

  2. If real money was spent on this study, what a shame. And if some air-head professor tries to use this to advance a career, pity the poor student. I am approaching a time that i (and others around me) should be vigilant. I don't think I'm anywhere near there yet, but seeing the subject I was looking forward to something I might use to look for some benchmarks. When finally finding my way to the hidden questionnaire all I could say to myself was...what a joke. Those are open and obvious signs of any impaired lawyer (or non-lawyer, for that matter), And if one needs a checklist to discern those tell-tale signs of impairment at any age, one shouldn't be practicing law. Another reason I don't regret dropping my ABA membership some number of years ago.

  3. The case should have been spiked. Give the kid a break. He can serve and maybe die for Uncle Sam and can't have a drink? Wow. And they won't even let him defend himself. What a gross lack of prosecutorial oversight and judgment. WOW

  4. I work with some older lawyers in the 70s, 80s, and they are sharp as tacks compared to the foggy minded, undisciplined, inexperienced, listless & aimless "youths" being churned out by the diploma mill law schools by the tens of thousands. A client is generally lucky to land a lawyer who has decided to stay in practice a long time. Young people shouldn't kid themselves. Experience is golden especially in something like law. When you start out as a new lawyer you are about as powerful as a babe in the cradle. Whereas the silver halo of age usually crowns someone who can strike like thunder.

  5. YES I WENT THROUGH THIS BEFORE IN A DIFFERENT SITUATION WITH MY YOUNGEST SON PEOPLE NEED TO LEAVE US ALONE WITH DCS IF WE ARE NOT HURTING OR NEGLECT OUR CHILDREN WHY ARE THEY EVEN CALLED OUT AND THE PEOPLE MAKING FALSE REPORTS NEED TO GO TO JAIL AND HAVE A CLASS D FELONY ON THERE RECORD TO SEE HOW IT FEELS. I WENT THREW ALOT WHEN HE WAS TAKEN WHAT ELSE DOES THESE SCHOOL WANT ME TO SERVE 25 YEARS TO LIFE ON LIES THERE TELLING OR EVEN LE SAME THING LIED TO THE COUNTY PROSECUTOR JUST SO I WOULD GET ARRESTED AND GET TIME HE THOUGHT AND IT TURNED OUT I DID WHAT I HAD TO DO NOT PROUD OF WHAT HAPPEN AND SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SEEKING MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR MY CHILD I AM DISABLED AND SICK OF GETTING TREATED BADLY HOW WOULD THEY LIKE IT IF I CALLED APS ON THEM FOR A CHANGE THEN THEY CAN COME AND ARREST THEM RIGHT OUT OF THE SCHOOL. NOW WE ARE HOMELESS AND THE CHILDREN ARE STAYING WITH A RELATIVE AND GUARDIAN AND THE SCHOOL WON'T LET THEM GO TO SCHOOL THERE BUT WANT THEM TO GO TO SCHOOL WHERE BULLYING IS ALLOWED REAL SMART THINKING ON A SCHOOL STAFF.

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