Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Oklahoman: Follow Mitch Daniels' Lead

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels
Editorial/The Oklahoman ~ Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels' success in guiding Indiana through the recession has been a model for other states.

His ideas for saving money in the area of corrections are worth a look for Oklahoma policymakers who face real and expensive challenges in this area.

Daniels has put together a package of reform ideas that will require an investment of about $28 million but save the state more than $1 billion in the long term. None other than The New York Times editorialized that if Indiana's legislature approves the plan, “Indiana will show the nation what good things can happen when leaders apply good sense.”

Daniels got busy with this issue after receiving a study by the Council of State Governments Justice Center that showed Indiana's prison population had increased by 41 percent from 2000 to 2009, driven largely by drug offenders and low-level, nonviolent criminals.

The study said the inmate count could increase by another 21 percent by 2017 unless changes were made.

Daniels' reforms include giving judges more leeway in sentencing nonviolent offenders, and restructuring the state's parole system to focus on those who present a real public safety risk. Expanding drug treatment for addicts is part of the plan, as are incentives for towns to handle low-risk offenders instead of sending them to state prison.

Some of these ideas may work here. Some may not. Oklahoma policymakers, faced with aging prison buildings and an inmate population that only continues to mushroom, would be wise to at least give them a look to find out.

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