Jack Rinehart, writing for “The Indy Channel” has a piece on the Department of Correction not accepting D felons for incarceration.
Beginning July 1, 2014, the Indiana Department of Corrections will no longer accept certain offenders convicted of D-felonies.
D-felonies are a lower-class of crimes, but include assaults, drug offenses and property crimes.
Starting July 1, offenders convicted of D-felonies and sentenced to 90 days or less will not be accepted to the DOC. Starting July 1, 2015, offenders convicted of D-felonies and sentenced to one year or less will not be accepted into the DOC.
As a practical matter, I’m not sure how much difference this makes. I don’t know how many convicted felons make their way from the county jails to the DOC in 90 days or less. On a more theoretical level, it raises interesting questions about the interplay between state judicial authority, state executive authority, and county authority.
Maybe practitioners of criminal law know the answers to these things, but let’s say a state court judge sentences a convict to a period of incarceration. That’s well within the judge’s authority, of course. But, where does a judge’s authority to compel another government entity to accept that offender begin and end? This story suggests that the DOC regards itself as having some discretion to decline to accept some of these offenders. Maybe the judge would like, as an alternative, to sentence the offender to a county community corrections program such as house arrest or home detention. Counties aren’t even required to have those programs in the first place, so a judge’s authority to compel acceptance by the county to the program has to be limited. The county could simply discontinue the program if the number of offenders sentenced to it became too expensive.
So, how about the county jail? Things get murkier. Sheriffs are charged with executing the writs issued by courts. But there are at least constitutional limitations to the number of individuals you can pack into a jail. Now, most judges would be wary of overcrowding jails in their counties. But, it may be that, given nowhere else to send offenders, a court would sentence enough people to overcrowd the jail and simply take the position that the county was obligated to build more space.
If that came to pass, I predict that State officials would congratulate themselves on their fiscal discipline while criticizing the profligacy of local government. Because, it all flows downhill.