Archive for January, 2011

January 25, 2011

Indiana, there is a choice to not warehouse more prisoners!


Two items are very important – 1) Criminal justice, especially corrections, is consuming an ever-increasing share of the state’s budget.  Political leaders and citizens are concerned about the skyrocketing costs, particularly when state revenues are dropping  due to the economic crisis.  Sentencing reforms estimated to save Indiana $1.3 billion over the next 7 years have been endorsed by the Governor, by legislators across the political spectrum and by the judiciary. It is exceedingly important that the sentencing reform be passed by the Legislature.  Details of recommendations can be found at  A one page data sheet can be found at

 2) In these extremely difficult times Indiana does not need a new 512 bed prison as announced by Governor Daniels on December 15, 2010.  Stopping the new prison will be extremely difficult because of the powerful prison interests involved.  But redirecting the funds allocated for the new prison to initiatives that cut crime and keep people from returning may have even greater benefit to Indiana taxpayers than the $1.3 billion savings claimed by the Governor for sentencing reform. 

Governor Daniels claims a $600,000 savings per annum because GEO Group, the private company being contracted to finance, build and management the prison, guarantees a $37 / day cost per inmate in constant dollars instead of the state average of $42 / day.  But, Indiana is obligated to fill the facility.   If it were not built we would not have this obligation.  In fact, instead of a $600,000 savings it is a $6,914,560 per annum expense to house an additional 512 inmates.  Over ten years the cost to taxpayers will be $69,145,560 with an implied commitment for an additional ten years. 

This money would be far better spent on work release and evidence-based programs that keep people from returning to prison and jail.  Beyond that, Indiana already has a 1,000 to 1,500 bed facility (former Boys School) that is staffed by admin people but otherwise empty.  Where is the need for 512 additional beds if the Governor, legislators and our judiciary recognize that we have far too many non-violent offenders in prison? 

The Governor has decided to obligate the taxpayers with a no compete contract to an out-of-state business to build an unneeded facility that warehouses more people doing nothing to reduce crime.  GEO Group has made large campaign contributions to Indiana politicians.  Let’s hope these contributions had nothing to do with this decision.  

Consider the alternative of investing $6,914,560 through a highly competitive process managed by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute to choose the best evidence-based projects to reduce recidivism and improve reentry for the thousands of men and women released each year from Indiana’s prisons and jails.  Such an initiative would stimulate innovation at the county level under the policy direction of Indiana state government.  This could help to transform how reentry works at the local level while at the same time adopting evidence-based practices more uniformly across the State.  We could also put hundreds of otherwise jobless or homeless people to work.  By investing the funds in innovative, highly competitive projects across the state, taxpayers will gain vastly more than a 512 bed human warehouse. 

The Governor has the opportunity to exercise leadership to back innovation in corrections in Indiana to reduce recidivism.  The legislature and the judiciary are for measures that lead to fewer prisoners returning to prison.  It is a rare “teachable moment” in government that should not be passed up.  The benefits to Indiana from not building the new prison and instead redirecting the funds to programs that work can reap create much greater benefits than the $1.3 billion savings from sentencing reform alone.   

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Vid Beldavs
Indiana CURE Newsletter Editor

January 18, 2011

Work release first!

Governor Daniels wants to build a 512 bed prison contracted without competitive bidding to GEO Group, a Florida-based company that already operates a 2,500 bed prison at New Castle.  Under the terms of the arrangement GEO would finance construction and the State would have a 10 year commitment to fill the prison at a cost of $37 / day claiming to save the state $5 per inmate per day if Indiana constructed and managed the facility.  However, these savings are misleading and Indiana also needs to consider opportunity costs.  The money the Governor wants to spend on an unneeded prison could funds evidence-based programs that reduce crime and cut criminal justice costs.

Build it and we must fill it

The ten year cost to the taxpayers of the Governor’s plan will be 512 X $37 X 365 days X 10 years = $69,145,600.  The governor spoke of an optional 20 year commitment, for a total of $138,291,200.  This reflects only direct payments to GEO and not the total cost of 512 additional prisoners in the DOC.  

The additional prison beds are not needed

Yes, Indiana prisons are operating at near capacity.  But, the sentencing reforms endorsed by the Governor will have a substantial impact on reducing the Indiana prison population, if they are swiftly implemented.  He forecasts $1.3 billion savings by 2017.  However, by not contracting for the 512 prison beds, the State will be able to make additional reductions in prison costs. The basis for additional beds is 4% annual growth in the prison population forecast by the DOC.  This forecast simply reflects the historical growth in Indiana’s prison population and has no basis in generally accepted demographic forecasts.  The Indiana Business Research Center forecasts a modest decline in the 20-35 age bracket that is most likely to commit crimes.  With an aging population crime rates should decline and growth in the prison population should decline, even without sentencing reforms.  Michigan, facing perhaps a more daunting budgetary crisis than Indiana, is shutting prisons. 

Indiana needs work release beds not 512 more beds to warehouse

Governor Daniels is prepared to commit the state to spending at least $69,145,000 on a facility that will have very little positive impact on reducing crime in the State and certainly will do nothing to cut the long term costs of criminal justice in the State. 

Let’s consider alternative ways to spend the $69,145,000 that the Governor wants to spend in the coming decade.  What if the $69,145,000 were spent on work release and other local reentry capabilities in the state?  We could then remove all inmates from the state’s prisons that are there primarily for issues such as failure to pay child support and other non-violent crimes, and put them into work release and other local facilities where they would have the opportunity to pay child support while receiving their sanctions.  Monroe County is among the many that do not have work release because local facilities are not available. Dramatic improvements to local capabilities are possible with the implementation of evidence-based programs for which the state budget is extremely limited.  Consider the possibility if the state made 1/10th of the 10 year commitment or $6,914,500 available every year on a competitive basis to implement effective, evidence-based programs in counties across the state.  In a decade we could see major improvements that could potentially return savings to the state as impressive as the $1.3 billion savings that the Governor is claiming from implementation of sentencing reforms.  We could then follow Michigan and shut down prisons that would be no longer needed.

 Vid Beldavs – / phone – 812-333-1391

January 18, 2011

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