In an editorial, the Indianapolis Star urges Gov. Mitch Daniels to end Indiana’s build-more-prisons mentality. While prison populations in surrounding states rose between 13 percent and less than 1 percent between 2000 and 2008, Indiana’s inmate count skyrocketed by 41 percent. The cost of running the correction system leapt by 76 percent, to $679 million a year. By 2017, state officials say, the tab will be $1 billion. It’s no coincidence, the paper said, that a get-tough legislature has passed 117 laws since 2000 that serve to lengthen prison time, and not a single one that reduces sentences. Or that the Indiana criminal code hasn’t been revised since 1974.
Determining what works, what conflicts and what’s at odds with reality in the code is a major part of a county-by-county study by state government along with the Pew Center on the States and the Council of State Governments. Those groups helped several states, including hard-nosed Texas, with efforts to reduce costs while improving public safety. Texas saved $2 billion in one shot by abandoning a plan to add 17,000 prison beds. “The keys to fighting inefficiency without surrendering to crime are realistic sentencing and alternatives to incarceration,” the Star said. “Both will require hard study and political courage as lawmakers and the governor confront a public conditioned to throw-away-the-key rhetoric.”