Gov. Daniels approves of plan for "smarter incarceration"

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December 15, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana: "Smarter incarceration" and "smarter punishment" is coming to Indiana's criminal justice system, per approval of proposed legislation scheduled to be released Thursday.[1]

Governor Mitch Daniels announced this morning that he has approved a new plan to help bring down Indiana's growing inmate population. The plan will re-structure sentencing guidelines for non-violent criminals, and include ways to incorporate them into county rehabilitation programs.[2] These changes would ideally free up much needed cell space for more violent criminals.

"We are looking for more ways to suitably punish and rehabilitate criminals while saving our prison beds for violent offenders," Mitch Daniels said at a press conference.[3]

Daniels' plan is fueled by a study completed by the Pew Center on the States and the Council of State Governments Justice Center. Some notable findings in the study are:

  • Indiana's prison population grew 41% from 2000-2008, a rate that is three times faster than the surrounding states.
  • Surrounding states were recorded at inmate growth rates of 13% or less.
  • Fifty-five percent of the increase from 2005-2009 came from inmates who had committed non-violent property and drug crimes.
  • At the current rate, Indiana's prison population is projected to grow 21% by 2017.[4]

If the new legislation is approved, it could bring nearly $1 billion in criminal justice budget savings for Indiana. "Every significant aspect of law enforcement and criminal justice has been brought together in this project,” said Daniels. “We have hoped for a package of changes that will bring more certain and firm punishments to the worst offenders in Indiana, more sensible, smarter incarceration for those who pose much less of a danger to Hoosiers and, as a byproduct of that, grace to taxpayers in the form of lower costs in the years ahead. I am thrilled to say that this group has brought about such a product and I am happy to pass it on to the General Assembly with my strongest endorsement."[5]

Incarceration alternatives for "appropriate" offenders have been Governor Daniels' concern for a while. In a 2008 Political Courage Test compiled in a collaborative effort by Project Vote Smart, Daniels stated "Indiana does not currently need additional prison capacity. If/when it does, I will support creating it."[6] "My administration has created a number of prisoner re-entry and community corrections programs to prevent recidivism and provide alternatives to incarceration for appropriate offenders" Daniels said.[7]

If the legislation is approved, it will likely be up for a vote in the next session.[8]

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