Should Felons Receive Shorter Sentences To Lower Prison Costs?

By John W. Davis

April 7, 2011 Updated Apr 7, 2011 at 5:53 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - If you do the crime, you should do the time.

However, a standoff between State Senators, and Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, may stall prison reform legislation, over concerns the Governor's plan would lower prison costs but go too easy on some felons.

Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards said the original bill would have let non-violent drug dealers out of prison early.

Richards and every other County Prosecutor in the state of Indiana went on record, saying they were against that plan.

Richards said a new Senate bill, which is now back in the Indiana House, does not contain everything County Prosecutors want but it is an acceptable compromise.

Richards wants what she told Indiana's NewsCenter was a "truth in sentencing provision."

"We will maintain our compromise if the bill leaves the House, the way it came to the House," said Allen County Prosecutor Republican Karen Richards.

She wants felons to serve 85% of their sentence, instead of about 25 to 30% she said they serve, for good behavior and sentencing credits for earning a college degree.

Under current Indiana sentencing law, with good behavior, Indiana felons only have to serve 50% of their sentence.

Richards also told Indiana's NewsCenter that she believes the notion of Indiana prison overcrowding is a myth.

Richards said when the public was told the prison population had gone up by 40%, that's because researchers added federal inmate numbers with state prison numbers.

Richards said when those are subtracted, prison numbers have only increased about 2.1% from 2008 to 2011.

Richards told Indiana's NewsCenter that a 2.1% increase, does not support the idea of overcrowding.

"If the provisions that are important to our communities and to us are taking out, we will oppose this bill," said Richards.

However, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels has threatened to veto the current bill.

Daniels believes it would force the state to build a new prison, which could cost the state more than $200 million dollars.

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