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New legislation to curb prison overcrowding





House Bill 1006 amends the current criminal code so that felony charges will be filed into 1 to 6 levels as opposed to the current A to D classes.

The enacted law will undergo two phases, said Doug Garrison, Indiana Department of Correction chief communications officer.

Starting July 1 of this year, inmates serving 90 days of incarceration will not be accepted into state prisons.

Starting July 1, 2015, inmates serving one year or less of incarceration will not be accepted into state prisons.

Data released by the American Legislative Exchange Council shows IDOC currently spends about $618 million on inmates per year, given that there are about 30,000 inmates incarcerated in the IDOC system with $20,761 allotted for each inmate, according to the most recent IDOC statistics.

The annual budget for IDOC is about $500 million.

“The aim of the legislation is that it levels off the rise in our prison population,” Garrison said. “As we have studied the way our prison population has been rising over the last number of years we anticipate that if it doesn’t stop rising that we’ll have to build new prisons.”

IDOC data also showed as of December 2013, prisons were under capacity by 3 percent for adult men and by 5 percent for adult women.

Between January 2012 and January of this year, prison populations increased by 1,074 inmates.

In the past, the IDOC had difficulty working with low-level felons who only serve short amounts of time in prison, Garrison said. The new legislation is designed to defer level 6 felons back to the community for reentry into society.

Level 6 felons can earn day-for-day good time credit, resulting in a 50-percent reduction in imprisonment time for good behavior. For example, if a felon is sentenced to two years imprisonment, the inmate may be deferred back to community corrections under the presumption of earned good time credit.

Levels 1-5 felons cannot earn day-for-day good time credit, according to the new legislation.

Instead, they can earn a one-day sentence reduction for every three days of good behavior, as opposed to just one day of good behavior.

If the felon displays bad behavior, good time credit can be reduced to one-day sentence reduction for every six days or no good time credit at all.

Level 6 felons will be diverted back to the community according to actual time of incarceration and not amount of sentencing, Garrison said.

“Diverting them back into community programs where they could be in, for example, a community transition program or a community corrections program or perhaps a work release, that would better serve the criminal justice community by maybe keeping people out of prison that didn’t necessarily need to be in prison,” Garrison said.

Mary Katherine Wildeman contributed reporting.

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