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Mitch Daniels Blogs about Criminal Justice Reform at The Corner

| January 20, 2011

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels took some time yesterday to do a little blogging.  He put up a post at The Corner — National Review’s widely-read blog — about his conservative criminal justice reform efforts in Indianapolis.  Take a look:

Ordinarily, a kind mention in the New York Times — there have actually been a few, lately — sends me back for a serious rethink of whatever action or stance gave rise to the compliment. But this week’s support for our proposed criminal justice reforms in Indiana will engender no second thoughts, because the Times has it right — we can be a lot smarter about our incarceration policies.

During my transition to service in December 2004, I was told that we would need to build at least one new prison a year starting immediately. I said, “Uh, the state’s broke. I think we’ll need to find an alternative.” Six years later, we are housing 38 percent more prisoners without having built one additional cell. At a per day cost that is down around 30 percent, by the way. But even we are out of capacity utilization ideas.

Enter our friends from the Council on State Governments and the Pew Foundation. Their analysis shows that we are imprisoning, in our most expensive spaces, more people for relatively minor, non-violent offenses, like low-level property and drug violations, than most other states. Some of our guests are not with the state corrections system long enough for any rehabilitation, substance-abuse counseling, or job training to take place. They’re only with us, as my guys say, “long enough to study under some real criminals.”

If we can get our legislature to go along, we will soon be matching the place of incarceration more closely to the offender’s true danger to society, reducing recidivism and saving a bundle of money on new prisons we don’t have to build and staff. We’ll reinvest a small fraction of the savings into better community corrections and rehab services. And, as the researchers told us, “You’ll still be five times tougher on criminals than Ohio, just not ten times.”

As the Times editorialists were thinking, “Even a benighted Midwestern Republican stumbles on a good idea once in a while.” Which is approximately what I was thinking about them!

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VIBRANT P. REDDY is Senior Fellow for criminal justice issues at the Charles Koch Institute. Previously, Reddy was the Senior Policy Analyst for both Right on Crime and the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Effective Justice. He has authored several reports on criminal justice policy and is a frequent speaker and media commentator on the topic. Reddy has worked as a research assistant at The Cato Institute, as a law clerk to the Honorable Gina M. Benavides of the Thirteenth Court of Appeals of Texas, and as an attorney in private practice, focusing on trial and appellate litigation. Reddy graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a B.A. in Plan II Honors, Economics, and History, and he earned his law degree at the Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law in Dallas. He is a member of the State Bar of Texas and of the State Bar’s Appellate Section and Criminal Justice Section.

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