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Criminal Justice Reform in Indiana

When the HIV outbreak in Scott County happened in April of this year, all eyes turned to Indiana. Reports from the New York Times, CBS, and the Washington Post discussed Indiana's struggles with the outbreak, the causes, and the consequences.

About five months later on September 1, Gov. Pence launched a new task force to combat drug abuse in Indiana. Part of this new initiative will include correctional reform, since Indiana has high rates of incarceration and recidivism. For example, the Charles Koch Institute reports that Indiana’s incarceration rate is 15 percent higher than the national average whereas its crime rate is only about 5 percent higher than the national average. They also report that nearly 35 percent of Hoosier prisoners return to prison within three years of release. These high rates are associated with drug offenses, since the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that about 77 percent of drug offenders are rearrested.

Indiana’s state constitution proclaims that the purpose of incarceration “is to attempt to reform persons and not to punish them vindictively.” Yet with the current drug abuse in Indiana, perhaps it's time to think of holistic treatment to prevent people from drugs, and keep them out of prison in the first place.

According to a recent article in the IndyStar about the new task force started by Gov. Pence: "The new state budget provides $30 million in grants to help fund mental health and addiction services run by local community corrections, probation and diversion programs. One charge of the task force is to identify best practices for treatment and prevention to fund with those grant dollars. The funding follows the General Assembly’s approval of a series of criminal justice reforms in recent years. The changes will lead to lower-level offenders being retained in local jails and corrections programs."

Volunteers of America of Indiana's reentry services helps prevent individuals from going back to prison. For example, there are several services provided to them in our work-release facilities such as mental health counseling, workforce development, supervised visitation, and mentoring. Through our services and services provided by other agencies, Indiana's correctional statistics can be lowered.