[r47] Sentencing Reform in Indiana (8/29/2011)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Start Date: 8/29/2011 All Day
End Date: 8/29/2011

Sentencing Reform in Indiana

I am pleased that interest has been expressed in the continued work on sentencing reform here in Indiana.  However, the August 17 article, "State prison data used to drive reform legislation under review," demonstrates some misunderstandings about the underpinnings of these public safety-driven efforts and the more effective use of scarce criminal justice resources. 

The data from the 2010 Council of State Governments' (CSG) report on Indiana's prison population is accurate.  The numbers used in the report came directly from the Indiana Department of Correction (DOC) and included the most up-to-date figures available at the time, including 2009 prison admissions and population data that showed an increase in prison population from 2008.  The information presented by CSG and the Pew Center on the States was presented fairly and the multi-agency steering committee we set up to consider the data was fully informed as to what the figures meant.  However, we did not have access to some of the information outside of the DOC data base.  Therefore, we are now engaged in additional data analysis, seeking information from other sources as well as updating our numbers to include now-available 2010 data.
There always will be a need for additional research and analysis to help inform our efforts to improve the criminal justice system.  For example, the fact that half of new prisoners in 2009 were offenders in the least serious felony class is not disputed.  However, it is appropriate for further research into the criminal history of these offenders and that data was not available as part of the analysis earlier this year.  Some information must be painstakingly pulled from probation and prosecutor files, however I am still leading an effort to dig deeper into the background data.  We are meeting with prosecutors and other criminal justice system stakeholders to determine what additional questions need to be answered. 
Although a corrections and sentencing reform bill has not yet passed a legislative session, legislators will continue to seek changes that increase public safety, hold offenders accountable and control corrections costs. Accurate data can form the basis for sound policy decisions for the criminal justice system.  Accurate data can illuminate policy choices and the consequences of those choices.  Legislators, prosecutors, judges, correctional administrators, probation, parole and local court services and other stake holders are continuing to address reform issues.  Sen. Richard Bray is chairing the Criminal Code Evaluation Commission (CCEC) and Sen. Brent Steele the Criminal Code and Sentencing Policy Study Committee to continue to address criminal justice policy.