The city of Terre Haute contains a federal penitentiary and the Vigo County Jail. But while the city doesn’t own either facility, Mayor Duke Bennett says the prisons still place a financial burden on his community. So while a summer study committee examines changes to the state’s criminal justice system, Bennett said he’d like to see more cash funneled to local governments to solve issues ancillary to the locking up of criminals.
“There’s not enough money to pay for the monitoring that needs to be done or the probation officers that need to be done,” Bennett said. “There’s been cuts kind of across the board, so if you change the system at that state level and you don’t increase some funding in the areas, then we’re going to end up paying for it then back through the law enforcement, the prosecutor side, the courts side again. So we’re spending the money anyway.”
Martinsville Representative Ralph Foley sits on the Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy study committee and said he’s in favor of a proposal which would do just what Bennett asks, sending back any savings the committee eventually finds to local governments – but with instructions on how to use it.
“The money has to be targeted. It can’t be a blank check so that we go out and buy company cars or matching shirts,” Foley said. “I’m being a little facetious, but what we want to make sure is that the money goes to where it benefits the kind of programming that we feel has a better chance of success.”
Foley said he’s not sure how much money can be saved, but added he thinks too many state prisoners are already being housed in local jails due to overcrowding at state pens.