It Is Time For Indiana To Get Serious About Reducing Recidivism
It has been 6 months since the Elkhart 4 case was argued at the Indiana Supreme Court. We have not had a decision yet, and this is OK. It means that the Justices on the Court are taking their time to explore this case and the laws of Indiana. As we await for the decision it is a good time for us to look at some of the issues facing the Elkhart 4.
No matter how the Indiana Supreme Court decides this case, the Elkhart 4 have a tough road ahead of them. Eventually (hopefully sooner than the 45 years) Jose, Blake, Levi and Anthony will get out of prison. They will have to function in regular society and this can often be hard for former inmates.
There is concern growing in Indiana about the availability of programs that help prison inmates adjust to life after prison.
Mark Stoner an Indiana judge stated in 2013, “We need to spend less money on prisons, which are incredibly expensive and incredibly counterproductive in terms of recidivism . . . We need to start putting (offenders) in community-based programming.”
In a recent meeting of the Indiana State Legislature Study Committee on Corrections there was much concern expressed about the programming available to inmates to help them not reoffend. It was pointed out that Indiana does have programs that can really help people not reoffend after they are released. These programs have been proved by statistics. The problem is that most of the 20 000 people released from jail do not have access to these programs. This is because funding is only available for a few inmates to participate.
Indiana State Representative Linda Lawson stated, “We are not funding and we’re not doing what we should be doing if we are going to be serious about this.”
Even with the concerns about recidivism in Indiana it is important to point out that according to a 2011 Pew Study Indiana’s rate of reoffending (2004 – 2007) was 37.8% which was better than the national average of 43.3%. But Indiana’s rate of recidivism is much higher that Oregon which has a 22.8% rate.
In Oregon the prisons and parole officers are mandated to use evidence based practices that help former inmates to not re-offend. For Marion County, Oregon home of Salem the state capital, the use of such programs reduced recidivism from 26% in 2009 to 14% in 2014. For many obvious reasons this is good for society and for released inmates. There is also very strong financial benefit in Oregon’s success. The use evidence based programming costs the government $39 a day while the cost of keeping someone in prison is $84 a day. In essence it is cheaper for the taxpayer to provide programming that keeps someone out of jail, than to have them in jail . . . it is also safer for society as Oregon’s rate of re-offending shows.
The Government of Indiana knows what works because there are even some programs in certain places that are very successful. The problem is that these programs are not available to all Indiana inmates. The government needs to address this to ensure that these programs are available for people like Blake, Levi, Jose and Anthony.
As we await the decision of the Indiana Supreme Court we hope that Blake, Levi, Jose and Anthony have access to programs that will help them when they are eventually released. We hope that their families, friends and supporters keep encouraging them to stay productive, positive and make the best of a very bad situation. We hope that the Government of Indiana understands that investing in these boys now will help ensure they do not return to prison after they are released. Returning to prison is not good for society and it is not good for the Elkhart 4.