Sweeping changes proposed for Indiana’s sentencing system have won the endorsement of Gov. Mitch Daniels, who said that if lawmakers enact the changes they would hold down the expanding prison population and save taxpayer money by reducing the need for more prisons, reports the Associated Press. Daniels “strongly” endorses the changes called for in a new report, including giving judges more leeway to sentence people convicted of lesser felonies to community corrections or treatment programs to help free up prison space for the worst offenders.
Indiana’s inmate population soared 41 percent – a rate more than three times faster than adjacent states – and its correction-related costs grew around $100 million, to about $600 million, between 2000 and 2008, said the state-commissioned report by the Pew Center on the States and the Council of State Governments Justice Center. That review found that last year, Indiana had the nation’s fastest growing prison population, with nonviolent theft and drug offenders accounting for about 55 percent of the state’s overall increase in prison admissions. Daniels said enacting the recommendations would hold the inmate population to the current 29,000 over the next seven years and save the state about $1.2 billion in correction expenses that would otherwise go toward new prisons. The findings also call for increasing access to community-based substance abuse and mental health treatment – services that could keep former inmates from ending up back in prison, said Richard Jerome of the Pew Center’s Public Safety Performance Project.