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Report: Sentencing overhaul hasn't meant big savings for state

September 20, 2017

A report to Indiana lawmakers shows that the state hasn't seen significant savings from an overhaul of criminal sentencing laws aimed at sending fewer people convicted of nonviolent crimes to prison.

The report presented to a legislative committee Tuesday shows the average monthly number of new state prison inmates declined from nearly 650 in 2014 to more than 120 last year. That decline allowed the state to close the Henryville Correctional Facility in southeastern Indiana, reducing spending by nearly $2.5 million.

But Chris Johnston of KSM Consulting told lawmakers most nonviolent offenders are now ending up in county jails, rather than in community corrections and probation programs.

The KSM study found the state's $11 million in estimated annual prison savings are largely consumed by the nearly $9.5 million it pays to counties holding low-level felons in jail.

Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis, said the intent of the overhaul wasn't to shift those offenders to jails but into programs such as work release and addiction treatment.

The state has spent millions to add staff to community corrections, which includes work release, home detention, probation and addiction treatment.

Rep. Ed Delaney, D-Indianapolis, said these resources aren't being used any more than before the reforms.

"(House Bill) 1006 in my opinion didn't work," said Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis. "We just transferred the liability."

The committee will meet twice more in October before deciding whether to recommend policy changes.

The state spends about $780 million annually on corrections, which is 4.6 percent of general fund appropriations.

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