But Berger said local communities can’t afford to pick up all the extra costs. Few county jails have drug-treatment programs, the probation rolls in counties are already crowded, and there are counties in Indiana that have no community-corrections programs, he said.
“Without the money to make this work, what’s the point of the bill?” Berger said.
State Sen. Karen Tallian, a Democrat from Portage who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee, had attempted to get $30 million in additional funding for local governments impacted by the bill: $10 million to expand community corrections, $10 million for local drug and alcohol treatment programs, and $10 million for county probation departments to hire and train more probation officers.
“I pushed that really hard,” Tallian said.
Instead, the final budget bill includes an additional $4 million for community corrections, $250,000 more for county probation departments, and $2 million for drug and alcohol treatment programs.
The bill’s authors remain hopeful that the funding issue can be resolved before the law goes into effect in 2014. But they face a challenge of trying to get more money from the legislature during a non-budget year.
State Rep. Tim Brown, the chief Republican budget-maker in the House, said there have been conflicting opinions about the fiscal impact of House Bill 1006. While the Legislative Services Agency has said the legislation will eventually lower the prison population and save the state money, the state Department of Correction came out with its own analysis that said the prison population will skyrocket, because of the bill’s longer prison sentences for the worst offenders.
Still, the bill’s backers remain hopeful that the legislation can be improved upon in the next legislative session.
Democrat Rep. Matt Pierce of Bloomington, a co-author of the bill, called House Bill 1006 “the scaffolding on which we’ll build a better criminal justice system.”
“We’ve got a lot more work to do,” Pierce said.