State Senator Ed Charbonneau Discusses Criminal Sentencing Procedures

State Senator Ed Charbonneau

Editors note: Recently the Pew Center on the States and the Council of State Government Justice Center released a report on Indiana’s criminal sentencing procedures. WKVI’s Ted Hayes had an opportunity to interview the ranking member of the Senate’s Appropriation Committee this week, and what follows are Fifth District Senator Ed Charbonneau thoughts on the subject:

“One of the challenges of my position is being responsible on the senate side for the school funding formula. I’ve been sitting in on all budget committee hearings recently. These meetings give a preliminary view of what the recommendations, or requests are going to be for the next budget cycle. The Department of Corrections was one of the departments that came to those meetings. Some pretty stunning numbers came from those presenting the DOC’s needs.”

“While the trend around much of the nation has been to decrease the prison population, Indiana is bucking this trend and is increasing the populations dramatically. From 2000-2008, Indiana has gone from 20,000 to over 28,000 prisoners incarcerated in our state penitentiaries. And the projection is that by 2017, our prison population will be 35,000 if nothing is done.”

“One of the things we’re out of step with is mandatory sentencing. For instance, selling three grams of cocaine demands different sentencing in neighboring states. In Wisconsin, the penalty is no minimum and the maximum is 12 years. In Ohio, the minimum is probation and the maximum is a year in prison. In Indiana, the minimum is 20 years and the maximum is 50 years. We’re obviously out of step. With all of the new methods of controlling prisoners such as home detention, I think the whole sentencing procedure needs to be reviewed. When money is at a premium, it doesn’t seem practical to be looking at a $600 million dollar DOC budget, and the possibility of having to build new prisons.”

“This is going to get a good hard look in this session of the legislature.”