State legislative leaders appear ready to make big changes in Indiana's criminal sentencing system to try to stymie or even reduce the growth in the prison population, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports. Members of the State Budget Committee said the legislature will need more detailed data and lots of political courage to make changes that save money and better serve inmates and the public. The Pew Center on the States and the Council of State Governments Justice Center are due to finish next month an intensive study of the state's criminal justice system and makes recommendations for a sentencing overhaul.
State lawmakers have made a habit, in reacting to crimes, of passing laws that create new felonies or lengthen sentences. “This is going to be a big issue in the 2011 session,” said Rep. Peggy Welch, a member of the State Budget Committee and the budget-writing House Ways and Means Committee. “I challenge all of us to have the courage to do what needs to be done.” The corrections department, which houses 29,000 adult inmates, requested $667.4 million in fiscal 2012, which begins July 1. That's 1.3 percent more than in the current fiscal year. The increases are due exclusively to the department's growing prison population, said Correction Commissioner Edwin Buss. More inmates mean more food, medical care, and other basic costs. Every 100 inmates cost the department roughly $1 million annually.