Solid police work, less leniency by courts behind prison population


Inmates wait to be strip-searched Wednesday at the Indiana Department of Correction Reception Diagnostic Center in Plainfield. PHOTO BY SCOTT ROBERSON

For the past five years, Johnson County has sent more convicted criminals to prison than most other counties across the state.

Every year, local courts sentence more than 300 people to prison time. That puts Johnson County in the top 10 counties in the state for the number of people sent to prison each year, according to statistics from the Indiana Department of Correction.

Since 2007, the county has ranked between fifth and ninth in the state. With the 11th-largest population in Indiana, that has meant the county has sent more people to prison than many other counties of a similar or larger size.

Local officials said Johnson County remains high on the list due to partnerships between local police and prosecutors that make criminal cases stronger, police departments focusing on specific crimes, such as drugs, and the tendency of many local judges to send probation violators straight to prison.

The numbers tracked by the Indiana Department of Correction are used by the public and state and local officials to gauge where each county stands compared with others, said Douglas Garrison, spokesman for the state department of correction.

The state also can use those numbers to work with counties and make sure that each person they send to prison should actually be there, he said. For example, the state’s position is that first-time low-level felony offenders often don’t need to be in prison, so state officials can track how often counties sentence them to prison and then work with officials to develop and consider other options for offenders, such as work release or drug treatment, he said.

Counties also can use the numbers to plan for the future, such as if they are building a jail expansion and would want to make room for more low-level felony offenders, Garrison said.

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