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Report: New law will boost Indiana prison population

Associated Press
December 10, 2013
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Sweeping changes that Indiana lawmakers made this year to sentencing guidelines in hopes of slowing the growth of the state's prison population will actually have the opposite effect, according to a report presented Tuesday to a legislative committee.

The panel hired Applied Research Services Inc. to analyze Indiana's revised sentencing guidelines, which are scheduled to take effect next July. Its report concludes the changes will increase the state's prison population over the next 10 years.

John Speir, the co-founder of the Atlanta-based consulting firm, told committee members the new law's requirement that inmates serve at least 75 percent of their sentences will offset changes lawmakers made in reclassifying offenses and setting new sentencing ranges.

Indiana's current law allows most inmates to be released after serving half or less of their sentences if they stay out of trouble while behind bars.

The sentencing overhaul approved by lawmakers in April was designed to reduce the need to build new prison space or release inmates early by placing low-level offenders in probation, work-release or addiction-treatment programs.

Speir's analysis projects that Indiana's prison population will increase under the new guidelines from about 30,000 in 2014 to more than 35,500 by 2024. In contrast, the analysis found that if the state's current sentencing provisions were to remain in place, Indiana's prison population would rise to just above 34,000 inmates by 2024.

Previous studies of the new law's impact conducted by the state's Department of Correction and the Legislative Services Agency had found that Indiana's prison population would remain flat or decrease in the years ahead.

Speir said his consulting firm tracks sentencing guideline changes either proposed or enacted in six states. He said the long-term effect of such changes are often unclear.

"It can take years for the impact to become apparent," he told members of the Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study committee.

The panel's chairman, Sen. Michael Young, said lawmakers are expected to sponsor legislation seeking to alter the new law's suspended sentence elements and other provisions in their session that begins in January.

Young, R-Indianapolis, said the firm's report is expected to add fuel to those pushes.

"The report we got today showing that the numbers are still going to go up — it's not what we thought was going to happen. So we've got to look at sentencing to see if there are things we can alter to keep that number either steady or reduce it a little bit," he said.

The Indiana Department of Correction projects that the state's prison population, which currently stands at about 29,500 inmates, will top 30,000 by June 2014.

Indiana's new admissions to its prison system surged 9 percent during fiscal year 2013, a big increase from the 1-percent to 2-percent annual increase the state had seen each year since 2009.

Speir told the panel he believes the 9-percent increase is an anomaly, but Young said lawmakers are eager to see whether that trend continues.

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  • Duhhh
    Of corse their going to where the money is
  • Habitual's used over 10 years
    If they allow the Offenders who got a 30 or more year habitual on a sentence that they used that was 20 some years ago should be able to go free with the new law stating that you can't give them an habitual unless it's within 10 years. This would not be fair under the fair sentencing act. There are thousands of inmates that have unfair sentences (lengthy) and they did minimal crimes and hurt themselves and are not considered a threat to the public. Parents lost children, sons lost wives and children, children lost mom or dad... Like God told Pharaoh, "Let my people go!" Then you will have room in the prisons for the violent offenders, Enough is enough, I have family and friends that don't deserve 40 years for possession of stolen property, it's a crime by our judicial system if they don't let out some of these guys who are being punished for most of their life because they used these juvenile cases to charge them as an habitual offender. I wouldn't want to be in my thirty's and pay for what I did at 17 and on top of that my friend already served time in prison for that crime too! It's bunch of bull!!!! LET MY PEOPLE GO!!!
  • no more prisons.
    I know the prisons r over packed.I was in prisons and seen more things than u can believe. Food wise at prisons its a shame.how would u like to eat bland ground turkey all the time?,.this new law in Lafayette Indiana will make prisons rich and even more worse populated... Theirs so many who have been in prisons and get out an try to get jobs.but with a background history -and felony's the few company's tax write-offs us still lucky to get hired..but no one wants to hear about it .what if ur son or daughter was in a prison?…what would u think if they told u of the conditions in prison.media hides truth and so do prisons officials...how many people r in prison now from Indiana.how hard is it for 35000-40000 to get a job again. They r just putting people in to keep them out of their way and keep them in the system.
  • Cui Bono?
    Prison populations increase, somebody makes a profit. This is why it is stupid to the extreme to turn prisons over to for-profit operations. One might as well hire mercenaries to act as police.
  • remember last session
    Remember the last Legislative session? They were trying to reduce sentences and the classification of some the so-called crimes, and our New Governor insisted on beefing some of them back up, like Marijuana. Mr. Pence requested that Pot arrest be made at 3 grams as opposed to 30 grams or even a quarter pound (4 oz's), as some of our more aware and realistic legislators were proposing. Most of us believed, and certainly hoped clearer minds would change several of the sentences back to some 21st Century standard of reality during this session. If it took another study to confirm that thinking, let's change them, and at least get the pot laws back to some level of tolerance, if not a true legalization!
  • Increase was the Goal!
    Of course there will be an increase, because our privatization contracts essentially mandate a minimum "occupancy" to ensure the corporations running our prisons secure a profit. Privatization also has its costs -- they're just hidden better than when something is run by the govt. Will private companies run it more efficiently? Surely, but this doesn't mean the tax burden is lessened for tax payers! Savings are kept as profit not shared. I can't wait until Pence privatizes our education system so children can learn about the benefits of coal and oil. Blah!
  • An aside
    So actually they paid to get a study done that had already been done accurately to get the same results. A waste of thousands of taxpayer dollars!
  • Get it right
    Actually the DOC's projections said that the population would increase based on the reform, not flatline or decrease. Their projections were in line with the ARS projections.
    • So wait...
      If I'm reading this correctly, the legislature made the changes THEN hired an organization to determine the outcome of those changes? Brilliant.
    • pants on fire
      Any legislator who claims that they are surprised that this bill will cause increased prison populations is either lying or worse yet, they didn't read the bill that they voted on. Increasing the percentage of time convicts must spend behind bars before making them eligible for release is one of the most obvious ways of increasing the prison population.

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    1. On my rental property, before tax caps, I was paying $2,000/yr in property taxes. After the tax caps I'm paying $4,000/yr. How exactly am I "benefiting the most"?

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