“It tells me that drug courts are successful,” she said.
And it’s just what a committee of criminal justice experts and state lawmakers say Indiana should do more of. This week, Governor Mitch Daniels endorsed the sweeping review of the state’s criminal code and sentencing guidelines, saying its recommendations if enacted would hold down the growth of the state's skyrocketing prison population and save taxpayers money.
Pew Center researcher Richard Jerome said Indiana's prison population soared about 40 percent in the past decade to the current 29,000 inmates - a rate more than three times faster than adjacent states. He said future growth would be lower if Indiana revises drug and theft sentencing laws to reserve prison space for its worst offenders.
“I think you'll see very little change if any to Indiana sentencing when it comes to violent offenders,” said Senator John Broden of South Bend, who served on the committee.
“Where you probably will see changes in sentencing laws is in sort of the low-level drug offenses, where there is a small amount of drugs involved, where it's a first-time offender,” said Broden.
“We reached a situation where we’re using expensive jail cells on people who are probably not much of a danger to anyone and even worse, we’re missing a chance to supervise them closely, help them with, for instance, substance abuse,” said Daniels.
Among the recommendations are more of a focus on community corrections, re-entry, and alternative programs like St. Joseph County’s drug court.
“I look forward to reading the Pew study in some detail,” said Miller. “And I'm very grateful that our legislators and our governor are receptive … to making changes in the way we're doing business these days.”