With new Indiana sentencing reforms, one study estimates that more than 14,000 low-level offenders, some with serious addictions and mental illnesses, will no longer be kept in prison. They will be diverted to county jails and community corrections programs that sheriffs say are ill-equipped to handle the onslaught, reports the Indianapolis Star. Sheriffs across the state say jails are meant to hold people awaiting trial, not to house and rehabilitate those who have been convicted. Many do not have mental health services. Some counties lack money to expand treatment programs or to launch community corrections programs that provide alternatives to jail, such as housing and GPS monitoring.
Many of the new jail inmates may be drug addicts. Some will be thieves. Others will be like a woman who believes John Kennedy is her father and Dick Cheney fathered her child, said Franklin County Sheriff Ken Murphy. Many offenders need expensive mental health care, some requiring hundreds of dollars a month in medication. “These are people with real problems that need treatment,” Murphy said. “We need a secure facility or work release or whatever where we can send these folks … where they can receive treatment, and when they’re released, somebody follows up with them.” A study by Washington, D.C.-based American Institutes for Research estimates that about $10.5 million in initial funding is needed. A key player in the criminal code reform thinks much more will be needed.