STATEHOUSE— State Rep. Eric Koch (R-Bedford), Ranking Republican Member of the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee, joined Governor Mitch Daniels, Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall Shepard, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, and other legislative leaders to announce a new partnership with the Pew Center on the States and the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center aimed at improving public safety by reducing recidivism and managing the growth of Indiana’s prison population. This will be the first comprehensive review of Indiana’s criminal code and sentencing policies since 1976.
Indiana’s prison population has risen from 7,500 adult offenders in 1976 to nearly 29,000 today. Since 2005, the adult offender population has increased 19 percent but the Department of Correction (DOC) has accommodated the increased population without new construction through greater efficiency and capacity management.
“The Pew Center’s resources include nationally-recognized evidence-based best practices that we will be able to apply to Indiana’s sentencing and incarceration policies,” said Rep. Koch. “Our goal is to increase public safety, while controlling corrections costs.”
The partnership among the three branches of state government was developed following a letter Daniels sent to the Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Center on the States with the support of Shepard, legislative leadership and Attorney General Greg Zoeller seeking technical assistance on sentencing and corrections issues. The study will collect and analyze criminal sentencing data and compare the state’s current sentencing and corrections policies and practices with nationally recognized evidence-based and fiscally responsible best practices. Some examples include:
• Evaluating policies and requirements for offenders to receive post-incarceration supervision. Some of Indiana’s most non-compliant and dangerous offenders do not receive post-incarceration supervision once they are released from prison because they have served their full term and follow up is not legally required.
• Expanding the use of community corrections, parole and community transition programs. Some non-violent offenders are sent to prison for such a short time that there is no opportunity for rehabilitation. The state still pays millions for transportation and intake costs. More than 1,300 offenders were sent to the DOC last year with less than 30 days to serve. The cost of intake procedures is approximately $1,000 per offender, costing taxpayers $1.3 million, in addition to hundreds of thousands of dollars in transportation expenses.
• Implementing new policies that will prohibit offenders from manipulating the current cafeteria-style education and earned credit time statutory scheme that significantly reduces their period of imprisonment.
"There is a growing recognition across the country that prisons, just like any government spending program, need to be put to the cost-benefit test to make sure taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely," said Adam Gelb, director of the Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Center on the States. "There is a strong commitment in Indiana to rein in prison spending, and we are confident this bipartisan collaborative effort will lead to policies that improve public safety at a lower cost."
To guide the work of this project, the state has established a bipartisan steering committee that includes criminal justice leaders from all three branches of government. The committee’s proposals will be shared with the Criminal Code Evaluation Commission, which will provide recommendations to the General Assembly before November 1, 2011.
Rep. Koch serves as Ranking Republican Member on the House Committee on Courts and Criminal Code. He also serves on the House Judiciary Committee and on the Commission on Courts.