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


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