Over the past few years, the General Assembly has taken steps to ensure that Indiana’s worst criminals are kept behind bars, and low-level, non-violent offenders have opportunities to get their lives back on track. This multi-year legislative effort was undertaken to address several alarming trends in our state’s criminal justice system.
Recidivism, which is a term used to describe a cycle of incarceration, is extremely costly to state and local communities. The Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) defines recidivism as a return to incarceration within three years of an offender’s date of release from a state correctional institution.
In 2014, the IDOC calculated that 37.6 percent of offenders were recommitted to the IDOC for either a new conviction or a violation of post-release supervision. This contributes to our rising prison population, which fills our state prisons past capacity.
For the past several years, stakeholders at every level have examined alternatives to incarceration, such as local probation departments and community corrections programs that can rehabilitate offenders.
Upon further study, many redundancies were discovered at local corrections programs across the state. By streamlining these services, many efficiencies were achieved, saving taxpayer dollars.
Work release, restitution, counseling and other court-ordered requirements are critical in the fight against crime. Rather than “warehousing” offenders, these local services can prepare individuals for the transition back into the community on a case-by-case basis.
By giving them the tools they need to lead a lawful and productive life after serving their obligations, Hoosier communities are made stronger.
In cases where incarceration is the most appropriate consequence for an offender, it is crucial that he or she find employment after release. This is a critical factor in determining whether an ex-offender is able to lead a lawful, productive life.
According to IDOC, offenders that participated in a work release program in 2014 were nearly 31 percent less likely to return to prison when compared to offenders who did not take part in a work release program.
To assist offenders preparing for release, the General Assembly passed Senate Enrolled Act 173 this year to allow the IDOC to establish a specialized vocational program for minimum security-risk inmates in certain trades such as manufacturing, construction, plumbing, heating, ventilation and air conditioning.
Training offenders in these skills could alleviate labor shortages in high-demand fields statewide, while simultaneously helping offenders get their lives back on track.
In conjunction with jobs programs, we need to ensure that offenders with mental illnesses or drug addictions receive appropriate care.
Senate Bill 464 provides that addiction counseling, inpatient detoxification and medicated-assisted treatment can be required for an offender to participate in community corrections, probation, parole, pre-trial diversion or a problem-solving court. This helps communities address the root causes of crime, rather than simply cycling offenders through our prison system repeatedly.
Public safety remains a top priority for the General Assembly. An all-of-the-above strategy is required to fight crime and rehabilitate offenders. I’m grateful for the countless Hoosier communities that support this mission every day.
As always, I welcome your thoughts and ideas concerning these and other topics. My office can be reached at 800-382-9467 or by email at Senator.Long@iga.in.gov.
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