Gov. Mitch Daniels, looking at a tight budget for the next couple of years, is proposing only two new building projects -- expansion of a couple of correctional faclities in order to add 1,200 beds to the state's prison capacity. This doesn't over too well with some Democrats:
Democrats who control the House have questioned whether the expansions are necessary, especially because the proposed budget doesn't contain any new money for K-12 education and would make cuts in many state agencies and higher education. Some say the state should be investing in education and alternative sentencing programs that could help people avoid prison in the first place.
"It's the wrong emphasis," said Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary. "We need to rethink what we're doing in this state."
OK, I understand the arguments about reflexively building new prison capacity. Sometimes, it seems as if some strange variation of Parkinson's Law is at work, always adding enough prisoners to fill the space available. AT least once in a while the state should review whether things such as mandatory sentencing and get-tough-on-drugs policies are actually doing what they were intended to do.
But the Democrats seem to be advancing an either/or argument: Either we take care of the bad guys we already have or we spend money on policies and programs to prevent future bad guys. This is no contest. No one has yet, as far as I can tell, come up with a way of keeping a certain percentage from becoming bad guys. But it works out pretty well for the law-abiding to prevent the known bad guys from creating mischief by locking them away.