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Experts Say Alternative Sentencing Key to Criminal Reform

An Indiana University Criminal Justice Professor says Indiana’s judicial system is antiquated, and new methods of rehabilitation are needed for modern offenders.

According to Professor Bill Head, when the modern penitentiary system was developed, it was meant to house violent criminals and keep them out of society. Today’s system, though, houses more drug offenders and people who have committed non violent crimes.

“Unfortunately,” he says, “the criminal justice system has been asked to deal with more and more of what we call behavioral problems, rather than more traditional violent offenses and property offenses.”

Speaking on WFIU’s Noon Edition, Head noted that while counties like Monroe have established an effective local “drug court”, more individualized sentencing is needed on a large scale.

“The problem is,” he says, “various states have different kinds of [courts], you have drug courts, gun courts, family courts, obviously communities are recognizing that different problems have to be dealt with in different ways. You can’t have a one size fits all approach to justice, and that’s especially true when we talk about the prisons.”

According to Indiana Department of Corrections Director of Transitional Facilities and Community Based Programs Michael Lloyd, community corrections programs for nonviolent offenders have been successful in a few Indiana counties, and the DOC is working to expand the program statewide.

“Locking up individuals and hoping they get better in a prison isn’t the right way to do it,” he says. “We’ve been trying to do that for a century, and haven’t been successful.”

Lloyd cites successes in Monroe, Bartholomew, and Hamilton County for his desire to expand the program. Both Governor Mitch Daniels and Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall Shepard cited the need for sentencing reform in Indiana during statewide addresses earlier this year.

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