State lawmakers are looking for outside help in determining the effect Indiana’s criminal code overhaul legislation will have on the state’s prison population.
Gauging the effect on the prison population will help determine the funding needs of local community corrections programs, which remains the largest unsettled issue of criminal code reform.
Indiana’s Legislative Services Agency, the General Assembly’s nonpartisan analysis group, and the Department of Correction fundamentally disagree on the issue. DOC predicts a steadily increasing incarcerated population, while LSA’s projections show an initial decline in prison numbers.
State Representative Greg Steuerwald, R-Danville, says lawmakers are bringing in an independent, third party firm called Applied Research Services, which has conducted similar studies in other states. Steuerwald says part of the struggle with developing a clear answer to House Bill 1006’s impact is the antiquated data gathering systems the DOC has to work with.
“I’m not casting aspersions at them,” he says. “It’s just this data that we have. Trying to compare these individual sentences, both individually and as a total, when you compare that with 1006 to current law it is very difficult.”
State Representative Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, says he doesn’t think the third party firm will have much more luck in determining an adequate answer.
“We don’t know if the plea bargains are just going to make everything be the way they were before and there’s no gains,” he says. “We don’t know if all the judges will be hanging judges if there aren’t plea agreements, if they’ll all be really lenient, if they’ll split the difference in the middle.”