Maureen Hayden, writing for CNHI, has an article entitled Rewrite of criminal code goes forward with no funding for locals. I’d written before on HB 1006 which revamps the Indiana criminal code. Part of the effort is to keep small time offenders in local correctional programs instead of sending them off to DOC. No problem with that; most of the time that makes sense. In that past post, I wrote:
[I]f more offenders are going to be using those local programs, increased funding at that level will be necessary[.]
Maureen Hayden’s article does not allay my concerns. If the state is saving money by shifting its criminal justice responsibilities to local government; that money has to fund the local operations. Without that, the user fees are going to go through the roof. Community Corrections is funded through a combination of DOC grants and user fees. If the grants don’t get any larger, that leaves user fees. (The last thing local government wants to do is to raise taxes to subsidize a state government surplus and provide services to criminals.)
Philosophically, I’m not against criminals paying for the costs of their own punishment, but at a certain level, you’re just setting them up to fail. These are people – keep in mind – who couldn’t function properly under the ordinary burdens of life. Now you have all of those plus a criminal conviction plus a bunch of fees they have to pay. And if they don’t pay their fees, they get kicked off the program and end up back in the DOC anyway. Alternately, if you don’t kick them off the program for nonpayment, you have to charge the other offenders higher rates to subsidize the ones who aren’t paying; which in turn increases the chances that they won’t keep up with the payments. Rinse. Repeat.