Editorial: State turns overcrowded prisons into county plight

Starting this summer, offenders convicted of crimes, such as theft or possession of narcotics, no longer will be sent to a state prison and instead will stay here in the county jail.

The state could decide to pay counties for keeping those offenders in their jails, since that will remove as many as 3,800 people from state prisons and save $12.5 million by 2020. But the extra money, if approved by a state budget committee, won’t relieve overcrowding problems in county jails, particularly here in Johnson County.

Indiana lawmakers tweaked a law overhauling the state’s criminal code, which changes how felony charges are classified and the sentences judges can impose for convictions. This creates more opportunities for alternative sentencing, such as home detention or work release programs. But the law also reduces penalties for some crimes, limits how many people can be sent to prison for low-level felony charges, such as theft, and instead keeps them in county jails.

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