The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update

Breaking News

December 14, 2010

Some counties try to determine who will break law again

INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Mitch Daniels put sentencing reform on his legislative agenda for the new year, but in many counties throughout the state, change is already under way.

Since late summer, judges and probation officers have been undergoing training in the use of a new “risk assessment” tool that predicts how likely an offender is to fail on probation or parole.

The goal: To keep low-risk offenders out of the high-cost state prison system.

Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall Shepard, working with courts throughout the state to implement the training, said it’s part of an overall reform effort to make criminal sentences better match the nature of the offense and the offender.

“Our most expensive asset is a prison bed,” said Shepard. “We need to keep those for our most dangerous criminals.”

Not doing so is costing Indiana taxpayers a lot of money. Over the last 30 years, as Indiana’s prison population escalated, the Indiana Department of Correction’s biennial budget has jumped from $142 million in 1979-1980 to $1.36 billion for 2009-2010.

A report from the Pew Center for the States, slated to be released today, is expected to link the rise to a “tough on crime” attitude by lawmakers, judges and prosecutors that put more people behind state prison bars than needed to be there.

The Pew Center report is also expected to offer a wide range of solutions. Among them is the use of “evidence-based” sentencing procedures that filter out offenders best served by community-based corrections programs that cost significantly less than incarceration. Past studies by the Pew Center have found that when they have proper resources and are managed well, those community-based programs cut recidivism by as much as 30 percent.

Don Travis, chief probation officer in Howard County and president of the Probation Officers Professional Association of Indiana, said identifying offenders who can benefit most from community-based corrections isn’t easy, but it’s worth the effort.

“I think there is a realization that we’ve got to do a better job at this and that, in doing so, it’ll be better for public safety and more cost effective.”

Administered by probation officers, the risk assessment tool includes 50-plus questions that result in answers that can be scored to determine risk of re-offending. The questions cover both actions and attitudes and include queries about criminal history, substance abuse and family support.

The practice of risk assessment isn’t new, but Travis said the new risk assessment tool that court personnel are now being trained in offers more and better detail. That means judges have more information to help guide their sentencing decisions.

How much discretion Indiana lawmakers will allow judges to have in making those decisions remains to be seen. Sentencing reform will likely mean the Legislature will have to roll back some laws that stiffened prison terms and limited judicial discretion.

State Rep. Wes Culver, a conservative Republican from Goshen, said his colleagues are receptive to the idea, given the state’s budgetary constraints, including a projected $1 billion deficit.

“Sentencing reform used to be liberal issue,” Culver said. “Now it’s a fiscal issue. We can’t afford not to do sentencing reform.”

1
Text Only
Breaking News
  • Perdue defeats Kingston in Georgia Senate runoff

    Businessman David Perdue has defeated longtime Rep. Jack Kingston in the Republican runoff for Georgia's U.S. Senate nomination, setting up a nationally significant general election matchup against Democrat Michelle Nunn.

    July 22, 2014

  • New arrest linked to gun used after Boston attacks

    A friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is believed to have provided the handgun used to kill a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer during the manhunt, people with knowledge of the investigation said Tuesday.

    July 22, 2014

  • California firm issues nationwide fruit recall

    A Central California company is recalling specific lots of its fresh peaches, plums, nectarines and pluots sold nationwide over concerns of possible listeria contamination.

    July 22, 2014

  • Obama nominee McDonald pledges to 'transform' VA

    President Barack Obama's choice to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs pledged Tuesday to transform the beleaguered agency, saying that "systematic failures" must be addressed.

    July 22, 2014

  • Obamacare hit by ruling, but subsidies to continue

    President Barack Obama's health care law is enmeshed in another big legal battle after two federal appeals courts issued contradictory rulings on a key financing issue within hours of each other Tuesday.

    July 22, 2014

  • US airlines scrap Israel flights over missile fear

    Two U.S. airlines cancelled all flights to Israel until further notice, after a rocket landed near Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport.

    July 22, 2014

  • Detroit retirees back pension cuts by a landslide

    A year after filing for bankruptcy, Detroit is building momentum to get out, especially after workers and retirees voted in favor of major pension changes just a few weeks before a judge holds a crucial trial that could end the largest public filing in U.S. history.

    July 22, 2014

  • US stock futures climb as earnings reports roll in

     U.S. stock futures pointed higher early Tuesday as more corporate earnings rolled in. Shares in the restaurant chain Chipotle and the cable company Comcast surged after they reported results that were better than Wall Street expected.

    July 22, 2014

  • Genetic mapping triggers new hope on schizophrenia

    Scientists have linked more than 100 spots in our DNA to the risk of developing schizophrenia, casting light on the mystery of what makes the disease tick.

    July 22, 2014

  • Carmel ordinance targets detouring semitrailers

    The city of Carmel has banned semitrailers from some of its streets after the big rigs began using them to get around a closed section of U.S. 31 north of Indianapolis.

    July 22, 2014

Featured Ads
More Resources from The Herald Bulletin
AP Video
Judge Ponders Overturning Colo. Gay Marriage Ban Airlines Halt Travel to Israel Amid Violence NYPD Chief Calls for 'use of Force' Retraining VA Nominee McDonald Goes Before Congress Bush: Don't Worry, Sugarland Isn't Breaking Up US Official: Most Migrant Children to Be Removed Police Probing Brooklyn Bridge Flag Switch CDC Head Concerned About a Post-antibiotic Era Raw: First Lady Says `Drink Up' More Water Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law Holder Urges Bipartisanship on Immigration Raw: Truck, Train Crash Leads to Fireball US Airlines Cancel Israel Flights Obama Signs Workforce Training Law Crash Victims' Remains Reach Ukraine-held City Diplomatic Push Intensifies to End War in Gaza Cat Fans Lap Up Feline Film Festival Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die Veteran Creates Job During High Unemployment
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Helium debate
Helium
Front page
Poll

Will you be attending Colts camp?

Yes, at least once
Yes, I plan multiple visits
No
     View Results