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ACLU of Indiana releases blueprint for cutting incarceration by 50 percent

INDIANAPOLIS — The ACLU of Indiana released a report Monday that outlines how Indiana can cut the number of people behind bars in half.

The Blueprint quantifies the positive impact of revising extreme laws and policies, such as the reduction of extraordinarily long sentences for low-level drug offenses, and expanding evidence-based opportunities for release, including for those who have not yet been convicted of a crime.

The Blueprint is designed to help Hoosier policymakers combat a mass incarceration crisis that has damaged families, harmed communities, deepened racial disparities and bankrupted local governments.

The report is a part of the ACLU’s Smart Justice 50-State Blueprints project, a comprehensive, state-by-state analysis of how states can transform their criminal justice system and cut incarceration in half. The Indiana report can be found here: 50stateblueprint.aclu.org/states/indiana/

The report finds that while the national state imprisonment rate dropped eight percent between 2000 and 2016, Indiana’s imprisonment rate grew 18 percent. According to the ACLU, Indiana’s jail population has risen due to an influx of people convicted of low-level felonies. More and more community organizations and public officials across the state are calling for comprehensive criminal justice reform.

The Blueprint provides a snapshot of how reformers cannot take a one-size-fits-all approach to ending mass incarceration. The Blueprint includes an overview of Indiana’s incarcerated populations, including analysis on who is being sent to jail and prison and the racial disparities that are present, what drives people into the system, how long people spend behind bars, and why people are imprisoned for so long.

In Indiana, Black people accounted for 34% of the prison population and only 9 percent of the state’s adult population in 2017. To reduce these racial disparities, the Blueprint calls for implementation of explicit racial justice strategies throughout all policy reforms.

“The mass incarceration crisis, in Indiana and across the country, has taken a huge toll on families and communities, and has wasted trillions of taxpayer dollars,” said Jane Henegar, ACLU of Indiana executive director. “The current system has failed, disproportionately effecting communities of color. Legislative, policing and prosecutorial reform must be specific to combating these disparities.”

The Blueprint calculates the impact of certain reforms could have on racial disparities in the prison population, fiscal costs, overall prison population and progress towards a 50 percent decarceration goal. In 2017, Indiana spent 744 million general fund dollars on corrections in 2017. The report concludes that if Indiana were to adopt the changes outlined in this Smart Justice report and achieve a 50 percentreduction in its prison population, the state could save more than $541 million by 2025 – money that could be better spent on schools, infrastructure and services for Hoosiers.

“This crisis goes deeper than just criminal justice policy reform,” said Henegar. “We are proud to stand with community partners to support long-needed reform to the criminal justice system and reforms to the many systems that have failed to adequately support individuals in our community, ultimately and unnecessarily resulting in their incarceration. We must address inadequacies throughout our education, healthcare and economic systems, to name a few.”

The Smart Justice 50-State Blueprints is a result of a multi-year partnership between the ACLU, its state affiliates and the Urban Institute to develop actionable policy options for each state that capture the nuance of local laws and sentencing practices.

The website and the reports were created by utilizing a forecasting tool developed by the Urban Institute, which can be viewed here: apps.urban.org/features/prison-population-forecaster/

– Provided by the ACLU of Indiana