Sagamore’s 2016 criminal justice reform report first aims to establish a baseline understanding of the Indiana criminal justice system’s status in June 2014, immediately before HEA 1006 took effect. Key findings show relatively high recidivism rates, with high projections for both prison population and costs. Two years after the implementation of HEA 1006, some of this growth has been averted. All levels of felony show movement away from Department of Correction sentences and towards local rehabilitation or community corrections. Level 6 offenders are serving fewer offender-days than their Class D predecessors. Yet, more dangerous offenders are still receiving their due time, as higher-level felons are serving relatively longer prison sentences. As sentencing under the new Level felonies continues to replace the old Class felonies, it appears these trends will continue.
Next, the report focuses on eleven key areas of analysis specifically enumerated by statute for review. Some of the more prominent agencies and organizations working to improve the Indiana criminal justice system include the Justice Reinvestment Advisory Committee, a group charged with overseeing funding for community corrections, probation departments, and county jails, and working to facilitate county use of evidence-based practices. Problem-solving courts increasingly address mental health and addiction issues, and reentry programs are proving to be effective at reducing recidivism. In the coming year, however, more work should be done to solidify these gains.
Last year, this report recommended key steps for moving forward: creating a centralized data management system to facilitate information sharing, allowing for one personal identification number to follow an offender through the criminal justice process, solidifying pretrial release practices, and standardizing county jail data collection. The State has mostly pursued other reforms, although some of these have been addressed in part, as discussed in greater detail below.
The report makes further recommendations this year regarding probation reforms, re-entry facilitation and funding, and jail inspections and data collection. By following up with past recommendations and pursuing these new suggestions as well, Indiana can solidify its trajectory towards a truly reformative criminal justice system that balances offender needs, public safety, cost, and community development.