A week after Gov. Mike Pence caught lawmakers by surprise with his opposition to a criminal code reform bill, the state Department of Correction is saying the bill will blow up the state’s prison population.
The DOC’s projections, which say the state’s prison population could grow by 70 percent in 20 years if the bill becomes law, caught supporters of the bill by surprise during a committee hearing on the legislation Tuesday, March 26.
Republican State Sen. Brent Steele of Bedford, a key sponsor of House Bill 1006,likened the DOC projections to “ninja smoke.”
House Bill 1006 rewrites the criminal code to lessen penalties for low-level drug offenders and toughen punishment for the worst sex and violent offenders. Backers of the bill have long argued that it would slow down the rise in Indiana’s prison population.
The DOC projections conflict with a Legislative Services Agency analysis which says the bill would lead to a small increase in prison population before dropping off.
While the LSA analysis predicts the prison population would top off at about 30,000 within a few years if the bill is passed, the DOC projects the bill explode the prison population to almost 48,000 by 2023.
Both Boone County Prosecutor Todd Meyer and Sheriff Ken Campbell fear an adverse impact on their agencies if the sentencing reduction becomes law.
“There is a real push to focus on the recidivism problem of criminal corrections and most of the focus is on rehabilitation/treatment for drug/alcohol abuse as most crime is associated with those two issues,” Meyer said. “This will fall on the local level to address.”
Rod Rose, Lebanon Reporter, contributed to this article. See Wednesday's Times Sentinel for the full story.