Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

June 2, 2011

Sex offender registries do not prevent crime and should be eliminated

We are opposed to public registries of sex offenders.  There is no evidence that  registries prevent sex crimes.  But it is clear beyond any doubt that thousands of people have been harmed and many lives ruined through the sex offender registries and scarlet letter laws that brand many people that have not committed any crimes against children as “violent, sexual predators” who
cannot go near a school, public library or other facility where children may be present.

While horrific crimes involving abuse of children do occur, these are rare and comprise a tiny percentage of those convicted with sex offenses.  However, the sex offender registries paint all offenders with the same brush whether it is teenagers having sex, a person urinating by the side of the road or someone who brutalizes a child.   Most sex offenses (more than 80%) are committed by family members or other people well-known to the victim.  Repeat offenses by sex offenders are rare with recidivism in most jurisdictions less than 5%.   Existing sex offender laws and the elaborate and costly apparatus to enforce these laws have little effect on preventing sex offenses.  These laws have sprung up around particularly horrible crimes and are often named after the victims.

Evidence-based approaches to preventing child abuse exist but too often are not applied and too often such programs remain underfunded while large funds are consumed by highly visible approaches that provide political benefits to people seeking to get elected on tough on crime platforms.   We propose that all funding for sex offender registries be redirected to fund programs that reduce child abuse.  This starts with training children to recognize abuse and abusers and to say no to the abuser and to report abuse to their parents or guardian or other person with responsibility.  Abusers whose actions are caught early can be
helped to understand their actions and to prevent this behavior in the future.  For the sex offender with a deeper problem
more intensive therapy would be warranted.

By preventing more cases of child abuse the relatively rare cases involving brutalization of children by violent criminals can be dealt with more effectively through appropriately severe sanctions.  In today’s environment with thousands of people painted with the same brush as if they are violent, predatory sex criminals the attention of law enforcement is distracted by the large number of offenders increasing the chances for such acts to be committed.

April 20, 2011

Note to Indiana Legislators – pass sentencing reform

Dear Indiana legislator:

With the potential to save $180 million per annum it would be fiscally irresponsible for the legislature to not pass meaningful sentencing reform in 2011.  S561 had broad bipartisan support until the prosecutors threw a wrench into the works.  The prosecutors have brought up no new information to raise serious doubts about the merit of this Bill.  Their concerns are certainly warranted but these concerns are beyond the sentencing study that led to S561.  These concerns should be studied in depth in the next legislative session.

How can the taxpayers of Indiana stand on the sidelines and let their legislature fail to pass legislation that has broad bipartisan support? 

What do your prefer?  

  • Cut vital services such as the education budget and fire hundreds of additional teachers by putting more people into prison? 
  • Or pass sentencing reform  to keep more non-violent offenders out of prison  and  address their offenses more effectively  using drug court, work release and community corrections at much lower cost?

See open letter to Governor Mitch Daniels below.

Vid Beldavs, Board Member / Newsletter Editor
Indiana C.U.R.E.


April 15, 2011

Mitch Daniels

Indianapolis, Indiana 46204-2797

Dear Governor Daniels:

Thank you for your leadership in sentencing reform for Indiana!  There are few comparable opportunities for major cuts in government spending that also bring multiple benefits including the potential for significant reduction in crime with increased chances for successful reentry to society for thousands of offenders.  Senate Bill 561 is solid, well thought out legislation that should be passed in this legislative session.  We are in a budget crisis and must make every effort to cut government spending where the cuts don’t damage other priorities.

The opposition to S561 by the prosecutors is extremely disappointing.  The sentencing study that you initiated involved all affected groups other than the offenders themselves and their families (Indiana C.U.R.E. represents this constituency).  Two of the most highly regarded policy research organizations in the country were involved to assist in the study.  The Pew Center on the States and the Council of State Governments (CSG) have a track record of success.  Prosecutors and other key stakeholders were all at the table and had numerous opportunities for input.  The study also addressed the low hanging fruit – non-violent offenders that comprise much of the prison population.  Review of sentencing for violent offenders was not included in the scope of the study.  I assume this is largely due to the need to keep such offenders in prison and that there are far fewer of them than there are of less serious offenders.  There was no opportunity to cut spending by reform of sentencing laws for predatory criminals.  The prosecutors knew that the focus of the study and the legislation was non-violent offenders.  

None of the arguments presented by the prosecutors addressed the intent of S561.  “Truth in sentencing” is a highly controversial position that has no currency in the research literature.  Corrections is opposed to mandatory sentences with no opportunities for time cuts because then prisons become harder to manage with increased problems and costs.  .  It is much more effective to be able to reward the prisoner for good behavior than to say no matter how much you improve to turn your life around you still will have to serve your full sentence.  Even if a prisoner is released before serving his full sentence he is still under corrections control and can be violated at any time and returned to prison to serve his full sentence.

The prosecutors also attacked the potential for savings claimed by the study by saying the prison count was off and that additional capacity is not likely to be needed even if the bill were not passed..  First, whether the forecast of $1.2 billion savings is high or low does not weaken the policy framework recommended by Pew and CSG.  Indiana puts too many non-violent offenders in prison and such offenders can be dealt with at far less cost and far more effectively using community corrections, drug courts, work release and other tools.  There will be substantial savings to Indiana simply by cutting the number of prisoners. 

C.U.R.E. (Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants) estimates are that excessive incarceration of non-violent offenders cost the state of Indiana approximately $1 billion in the 2000-2009 timeframe.  Our logic is that while crime rates were largely stable in that period incarceration increased by 7,190 more than it should have based on the actual increase in population during that time if the incarceration rate had remained proportionate to the rate of crime.  If we assume a cost of $25,000 per inmate per year this results in an annual cost of nearly $180 million per annum of excess costs.  Full implementation of the reforms including the investment in drug courts, work release, community corrections and other county-based programs could in a decade reduce the prison count by roughly the 7,190 excess.  While the total savings in the 2011-2017 period could be less than the $1.2 billion claimed earlier, it is still a very large reduction in corrections costs.  For more details see Attachment A: Increasing Incarceration of Prisoners in Indiana.

This brings us back to the need to pass S561.  If there are substantial savings if S561 is passed, then there would be substantial costs if it is not passed.  A factor to also bear in mind is that sentencing reforms are extremely unlikely to pass in an election year such as 2012.  Some legislators talk about passing a more “balanced” bill in 2012.  Elected officials are never elected by appearing to be lenient on crime. Reforms have the appearance of leniency to a large number of voters, if not to the vast majority.  Realistically, the next opportunity for reforms would be a two year delay – 2013 and not 2012.  Let’s assume that it takes 10 years to achieve the full benefit of the savings, i.e., $180 million per annum.  The first year will be slow but the second year should already start creating substantial savings.  Let’s assume a reduction of 500 the first year and 1,000 inmates the second year or $12,500,000 followed by $25,000,000 – fairly conservative estimates.  So even if we just reduce the number of prisoners by a small number we could see savings on the order of nearly $38 million by the end of 2013 if S561 were to be passed now.  Even if the savings were only $20 million that would still be worth a fight.  This should be understood by all legislators. 

The concerns of the prosecutors can be addressed with an in depth study that balances the obligation of the state to the reformation of prisoners with the need for public safety.  The Indiana Constitution mandates that prisoners are given the opportunity for reformation: Section 1, Article 18 – “The penal code shall be based on the principles of reformation and not vindictive justice.”  The “truth in sentencing” called for by the prosecutors would violate the Indiana Constitution.  There are many tools available to keep unreformed criminals from returning to society.  The corrections system would be the proper place to apply these tools rather than tying the hands of corrections with bad sentencing policy.  No doubt an in depth study of this problem will result in solutions acceptable to all parties.  Right now the priority is to save the Indiana taxpayer millions of dollars.

Vid Beldavs
Board Member / Newsletter Editor  Indiana C.U.R.E.
P.O. Box 62
Camby, IN  46113


Attachment A: Increasing Incarceration of Prisoners in Indiana

2000 to 2009

The FBI Uniform Crime Reports and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) provide a basis to examine the impact of increasing the incarceration of prisoners in Indiana from 2000 to 2009.  Taxpayers are paying an extra estimated $180M annually in 2009 compared with 2000 due to increased rates of incarceration.  The cumulative burden of extra taxpayer costs of increased incarceration in Indiana has likely exceeded $1billion over the past decade. 

Has increased incarceration had any impact on crime rates and public safety in Indiana versus that of other states across the United States?  Anecdotal stories of individual offenders suggest that yes, additional incarceration has reduced crime.  Empirical evidence suggests this has not been the case.  In fact Indiana has not done as well as the average state in reducing the crimes rate over the past decade.

The facts: Indiana imprisoned 335 offenders per 100,000 citizens in 2000 and 447 offenders in 2009, an increase of 112 offenders annually per 100,000 citizens.  This is the second highest increase in the incarceration rate in the United States trailing only West Virginia.  With a 2009 population of 6,423,113, this implies that Indiana incarceration increased by 7,190 persons from 2000 to 2009 over and above what would have occurred with population growth.  At an estimated $25,000 per prisoner per year Indiana taxpayers paid an extra $180 million for incarceration of prisoners in 2009.

Index crime rates per 100,000 citizens between 2000 and 2009 declined by 11 percent for Indiana and by 16 percent for the 25 states headed by West Virginia and Indiana that raised their incarceration rate the most (by at least 20 offenders).  Ironically and, for some, surprisingly, Index crime rates per 100,000 citizens over the same period declined an identical 16 percent for the 25 states that decreased their incarceration rate (17 states) or had the lowest increases in incarceration rates per 100,000 citizens.  The FBI and BJS data do not reveal any major correlation between crime rates and imprisonment rates contrary to popular opinion.

Crime rates in Indiana and across the country have declined through effective targeted efforts by state and local police departments, protective defensive actions by citizens and the use of community based programs to improve lives of persons, including opportunities for young adult males.

Other factors include lower rates of drug addiction and reductions in the enforcement of laws relative to the use of drugs including marijuana.  Some states have implemented statutory changes through sentencing reform, reclassifying of some crimes from violent to non-violent status with resulting milder sentencing guidelines and easing of restrictions on earned sentence credits.  Other initiatives have included use of alternatives to incarceration for less serious criminal offenses and, for some crimes, the reduction of felonies to misdemeanors.

Reducing imprisonment can actually help stabilize many local neighborhoods and actually reduce crime by allowing wage earners and parents to remain in the community while dealing with criminal sanctions.  Many criminologists would argue that at best increased incarceration is one of the least effective methods of reducing crime rates.  For Indiana taxpayers increased incarceration is expensive but it may satisfy a need for revenge and punishment.  However there appears to be little or no benefit to taxpayers in terms of public safety.

Robert Bohall,  Member, Board of Directors

Virginia CURE

March 23, 2011

March 8, 2011

Mass Imprisonment in the United States

Mass Imprisonment in the United States
By Maria
There are 9.8 million people held in penal institutions throughout the world. About half of them are in three countries: the United States, Russia and China. The United States has not only the highest prison population in the whole world but also the highest number of prisoners, 756 per 100,000 of the national population, making for almost 2.3 million people in the U.S. prisons and jails .
The second country with mass incarceration problem is the Russian Federation with 629 prisoners per 100,000 of the national population. This data appears odd taking into account how these two countries are different when it comes to human rights issues. The United States is a country where people value freedom more than in any other country. It is the world’s leader and supporter of human rights, including, ironically, prisoners’ rights. The United States is also a country that entered into a civil war because of slavery and initiated historic changes toward equality among people worldwide. However, nowadays blacks are twice as likely as whites to be unemployed and are, at the same time, seven times more likely to be incarcerated.
Russian Federation is a country which is notorious for serious civil and human rights violations, where individual freedoms are considered inferior to state interests. The conditions in prisons are so dire that the penalty of imprisonment sometimes equals the death penalty.
It seems that these two countries have not much in common when it comes to democracy or criminal policy. There are, however, certain similarities that can be detected. For example, frequent use of criminal law to solve social problems coupled with high penalties. Another element in common is a similar attitude toward judicial independence. In the United States, judges are chosen in democratic election or appointed by political figures. However, there are a substantial number of citizens, usually black from the lower social classes, who have lost their right to vote due to a prior conviction, constituting only 3% of the voting-age population but 8.4% of voting-age population of blacks. In 14 states the share of blacks denied their right to vote exceeds 10% and in 5 states 20% .
There are very rare occasions that a right to vote is denied to a member of upper social class. Judges usually belong to the upper social group and therefore will be representing interests of the upper social class. Moreover, judges have to behave like politicians and thus support penal policy popular in the society. In Russia and former Soviet countries like Belarus or Kazakhstan it is similar. The judges there are dependent upon political authorities and their positions are contingent upon subordinating their decision to the government agenda .
On the other hand, Canada has only 116 prisoners per 100,000 of the national population. The United States and Canada are close to each other physically and also socially, having a similar language, outlook on life, and religion. They also have a similar attitude toward individual freedom. It is striking how these two countries are so similar and yet adopt such different solutions when dealing with criminal prosecution.
The reasons why the penal policy in many countries tends to be punitive is the politicization of the discourse and decision making. The expert opinions are not taken into account in shaping the policy. Instead the policy is shaped by public opinion, which usually favors punitive attitudes. Society believes often that not being ruthless to criminals means not being fair to victims. Additionally, judges and prosecutors often have criminal law education but lack education regarding the social realities of the sanctions that they impose and their consequent effects. The topic of mass incarceration, for this reason, must be included in public discourse, and the people in society should be educated about the reality of penal institutions.
Another main reason why prisons are filled beyond capacity in many counties is the war on drugs. All countries with punitive drug policies are ranked the highest in the prison population survey (United States, Russia, China, Brazil, Mexico, Caribbean countries). Yet, these approaches of raising the penalties for drug use have failed to reduce demand. Drug addicts and dealers are usually members of lower social class and have an inconsequential impact on penal policy. The powerlessness of the lower class in effecting penal policy is most evident in the crack versus powder cocaine sentencing disparity.
The imprisonment penalty is often criticized for its ineffectiveness and huge economic costs. It is also criticized as inhumane and anachronistic penalty. It is ineffective in counteracting crime and preventing reentry. The prison is turning minor offenders into hardened criminals. Every new conviction raises the recidivism rate. Prisons are sometimes referred as “factories of criminals” and “universities of crime”. Ironically, the aim of this institution should be counteraction of crime.
The United States spends an estimated $60 billion each year on corrections. Cost varies from state to state. In 2005, the average cost of incarceration per prisoner in the United States was $23,876. That comes out to an astounding $65.41 per day . The prison industry is flourishing.
It is however not the economical costs that matter most but the social ones. Ex-prisoners are alienated from the society. Not only prisoners but also members of their families are victims of the mass incarceration. 10% of black children have incarcerated fathers. Furthermore, conviction causes the financial status of families to deteriorate. Ex-convicts face discrimination when trying to find a job , their professional contacts are lost, and their former social place in society is lost.
(Important public health issues are also connected with imprisonment. Mass imprisonment exacerbates the HIV epidemic. The prison medical healthcare is poor and no harm reduction services are available. The large incarceration of those who use drugs is the principal factor behind the high proportion of drug users in prisons when compared to the general population. Risk behaviors connected with using drugs in prisons raise concerns about the further spread of infectious diseases. The level of hepatitis B and C viruses and HIV among prison populations tends to be higher than in the populations outside prisons. HIV is usually acquired by contaminated injection equipment, but not only by injecting drugs but also by injecting anabolic steroids. Blood transmitted viruses might are acquired through rape or consensual sexual relations, fighting, tattooing, or the sharing of toiletries.)
Other detrimental public health aspect of the imprisonment penalty is its impact on the prisoners’ mental health. The conditions in the penal institutions are not adequate for basic psychological and physical wellbeing. A prisoner is dehumanized and deprived of basic human needs which servers to exacerbate mental deficiencies and antisocial behaviors. Clinical studies have shown that imprisonment can have devastating effects and may lead to a ‘psycho-syndrome’ (Sykes syndrome) which includes a loss of memory, clouding of comprehension, apathy, infantile regressions, hopelessness and the appearance of various psychotic characteristics such as obsession and major depression.
Imprisonment penalization is a deep-rooted concept within society that derives from the idea of punishing wrongdoing. It serves as revenge for the committed harm, and it aims to impose a pain on the perpetrator in the amount that the society believes that he or she deserves. The reason of making this suffering a basis of the legal system lies in a belief that the suffering deters from committing further crimes.
High imprisonment penalties do not deter. Higher penalties might deter only in an extreme example such as the death penalty sentenced for tax fraud. The punishment is imposed far later than the actual committing of the crime for it to deter through proper punishment. It was not mass imprisonment in U.S. that reduced the crime rate but rather a causality that was global. The reduction in the crime rate was a world-wide trend. More importantly, this is a complicated social phenomenon which is never linked with just one factor.
Imprisonment penalty serves as a mean of incapacitation. It isolates the criminals from the society. Rape, murder, and robbery, though, account for only 8% of felonies, while drug related crimes account for a 33%. There is also a substantial number of incarcerated mentally ill people as well as harmless immigrants, and both groups have not committed any crime. In 2008, there were 30,000 immigrants in detention. Among them were asylum seekers, survivors of torture, victims of human trafficking, and small children. Immigrants are detained alongside individuals incarcerated for criminal offenses and are often put in excessive restraints, including handcuffs, belly chains, and leg restraints. Immigrants can be detained for months or even years without any form of meaningful case review of whether their detention is necessary. Moreover, immigrants are denied basic rights granted in criminal proceedings such as the access to free legal counsel ..
Incarceration imposed on small children, immigrants, and the mentally ill must be reconsidered and reevaluated. Furthermore, criminal law should not be used to solve social problems such as drug addiction. Instead of pumping money into the prison industry, the money should be used toward education, job training, healthcare, affordable housing, and other social services that, in the long term, effectively reduce the criminal rate.
The legal solutions to mass imprisonment should be implemented on three levels – on the legislative level, law adaptation level, and law execution level. On the legislative level, it should be recognized that imprisonment penalties should only be used as a measure of last resort. On this level belongs depenalization, decriminalization, and decarceration, with the overall goal of changing the criminal policy so that it is less punitive. For example, the renunciation of the three strikes law, mandatory minimum sentences, and the depenalization of the possession of small amount of “soft” drugs or simply treating it as an administrative delict and not criminal offense.
On the law adaptation level, alternatives to imprisonment penalty should be used more often to deal with mass imprisonment problem, such as bond, community service, restitution, mediations, negotiations, probation, therapy, drug courts, and other adaptations of civil proceedings into criminal process. There should be a reduction of the time served in prisons, especially for those who do not pose a societal threat, a reduction of the length of probation and parole supervision, and an elimination of imprisonment for technical violations of parole and probation such as for missing an appointment.
On the execution level, it is possible to decrease mass incarceration through suspended sentences, mass pardons, conditional releases, electronic monitoring, weekend prisons, etc.
To conclude, 2.3 million people in U.S. prisons and jails bespeaks a policy problem. The U.S. government is a role model for many admiring governments. The U.S. policies toward crime pose a particularly hazardous example for the rest of the world to follow. As the leader in many areas of the global community, the U.S. must reform its policy not only for its own sake but also for the sake of others. American solutions in the criminological issues are being imitated across the world. Just only one hundred years ago criminologists from many countries were astonished at the humane treatment of prisoners in U.S., and this contributed to the development of humane penal systems in other countries. Today, politicians in many countries look up to America for ideas on solving criminal problems. If foreign governments increase their criminal penal system in imitation of the U.S., the effects would be disastrous as the number of incarcerations would rise to astounding proportions. There are currently 9.8 million people incarcerated worldwide with 2.4 million in the US. That has 4% of the world population. It is frightening to consider the possibility of American criminal justice policy being adopted worldwide.

February 20, 2011

Bolder prison changes would save state millions

Governor Daniels’ timid intentions were revealed when he announced the construction of an unneeded 512 bed prison in the same breath that he endorsed sentencing reforms that would bring Indiana more in line with neighboring states, but would not reduce Indiana’s incarceration rate which is one of the highest in the nation.  Subsequently, the Governor has provided no leadership in opposing efforts by the Indiana Prosecutors Association to emasculate the modest reforms that have been proposed.  The legislators who buy the prosecutors’ argument of no time cuts for a range of offenses should have talked instead to prison management.  Violent offenders that are a danger to society will exhibit this behavior in prison and will receive sanctions of no time cuts.  Why remove useful tools from prison management to simply give the appearance of being tough on crime?

The Indiana Constitution, Article 1, Section 18 states that “the penal code shall be based on the principles of rehabilitation and not vindictive justice.”  Removing the possibility of reformation through sentencing measures proposed by the prosecutors is a violation of the Indiana Constitution.  The sensible reforms in Senate Bill 561 should not be weakened out of a desire to placate a segment of our population that has a compelling need to punish.   Hundreds of teachers have been laid off across the state due to budget cuts.  Cuts to mental health are increasing the level of risk to our most vulnerable citizens and even the public at large.  The safety net of our state is being weakened at a time of rising need.  We are in a budgetary environment where sentencing one person to 10 years is the equivalent of firing one teacher or other vital service for a comparable period.   Business as usual will no longer work.  The state must seriously consider bold measures that can simultaneously cut the prison population and reduce crime.  Evidence-based practices have been implemented in other states and other countries that have demonstrated that this can be done.  Indiana needs to get serious about criminal justice reform.

 Vid Beldavs

Board Member / Newsletter Editor

Indiana C.U.R.E. –

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.   

Sign the Petition.   Click  or paste the address into your browser.

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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