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Opening Arguments

Spaced out

This isn't quite up there with Obamacare in the "taking a bad situation and making it far worse" category, but it's certainly worth a "what the hell were they thinking?" shout out:

Sweeping changes that Indiana lawmakers made this year to sentencing guidelines in hopes of slowing the growth of the state's prison population will actually have the opposite effect, according to a report presented Tuesday to a legislative committee.

The panel hired Applied Research Services Inc. to analyze Indiana's revised sentencing guidelines, which are scheduled to take effect next July. Its report concludes the changes will increase the state's prison population over the next 10 years.

John Speir, the co-founder of the Atlanta-based consulting firm, told committee members the new law's requirement that inmates serve at least 75 percent of their sentences will offset changes lawmakers made in reclassifying offenses and setting new sentencing ranges.

Indiana's current law allows most inmates to be released after serving half or less of their sentences if they stay out of trouble while behind bars.

[. . .]

Speir's analysis projects that Indiana's prison population will increase under the new guidelines from about 30,000 in 2014 to more than 35,500 by 2024. In contrast, the analysis found that if the state's current sentencing provisions were to remain in place, Indiana's prison population would rise to just above 34,000 inmates by 2024.

"They weren't thinking" is the answer. They were just trying to create the appearance of, 1) being tough on crime and, 2) being fiscally prudent. That kind of posturing  was what created more prisoners than we have space for in the first place, but I suppose we shouldn't expect politicians to give up their constituent-pleasing posing just because it would be the right thing to do.

That doesn't mean making inmates serve at least 75 percent of their sentences is a bad thing. The fact that most can get out after serving half their time has always seemed to be to be another gigantic game of "let's pretend." But if the resulting increased population isn't compensated for elsewhere, then the General Assembly will just hae to do the unthinkable and, you know, build more prison space.