Maureen Hayden reports for CNHI from Indianapolis:
A closer look at low-level offenders in Indiana prisons reveal few of them are first-time criminals. A yet-to-be released study of state prison inmates convicted of class D felonies - the lowest felony level in Indiana - shows they had an average of five prior criminal convictions.DAs and judges around the country have known this the whole time. A sentence to state prison requires a felony offense, and it generally requires both that the DA ask for a prison sentence and that the judge determine that such a sentence is appropriate. Mandatory minimums of state prison sentences are not common in state sentencing laws. Yet the soft-on-crime crowd has been curiously successful in creating a false public impression that we are packing off large numbers of people to state prison for minor offenses such as possessing marijuana for personal use. A large part of this success has been due to the fact that much of the funding for studies comes from lavishly endowed foundations that have been captured by the left wing, spending the money on causes that would have horrified their founders.
The study also shows that of those first-time offenders who did go to prison on a class D felony conviction, nearly 80 percent of them did so for committing a violent crime such as battery or domestic violence.
The study upends the premise that drove the sentencing reform effort that failed in the last legislative session: That is, that prosecutors and judges were crowding state prisons with low-risk, first-time offenders.
"It shows we aren't sending beginners to prison," said David Powell, executive director of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council.