While many states have begun to let up on the “get tough on crime” attitude that has cost millions and done little to curb criminal behavior, Indiana continues to lock people up and throw away the key—and the budget reflects this. From 2000 to 2008 corrections costs rose 76% to $679 million. Within 10 years that cost is estimated to reach $1 billion if something isn’t done to curtail it.
According to an insightful editorial in the Indianapolis Star, the Pew Center of States and the Council of State Governments, both of which have helped other states in similar predicaments, are looking to assist Indiana in preventing the massive cost increases in the years to come. Having made small changes in Texas that paid off in major ways, these organizations have the know-how if lawmakers have the willingness to learn.
The Indiana criminal code hasn’t been changed since 1974. In the past decade, 117 laws have been passed that lengthen prison sentences while none were passed that reduced them. It’s no mystery why the costs continue to climb when the inmate populations increased 41% while neighboring states only saw jumps from 1 to 13%.
But, doesn’t prison make us safer? No. Countless studies have shown alternative sentences to be much better at reducing recidivism than prison time. Prison is not just a punishment for the people sentenced there, it’s a punishment for all of society.
The vast majority of prison sentences are less than 10 years. This means all of those “criminals” that we seek to take off the streets will be back. Wouldn’t you rather see them rehabilitated?
So, what can be done? A major reevaluation of the sentencing procedures is a good place to start as is the development of quality alternatives to incarceration. Day treatment centers, intensive probation programs, and halfway houses are all much cheaper than prison and may serve to be more effective when implemented correctly.
Despite Indiana’s hard to break tough-on-crime mentality, there are some options available to you when you are accused of a crime. Especially if your record is clean, you may qualify for probation. Even if you have a record, though, an aggressive defense attorney will fight tooth and nail to ensure you get the best results possible while in court.