Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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July 14, 2011

Answers needed on prison overcrowding

Indianapolis — When Joseph W. Brown was moved out of the maximum security Indiana State Prison last June, it was to make way for someone even worse, Indiana Department of Correction officials contend.

What was made clear later, however, was that Brown hadn’t gotten over the urge to harm his fellow inmates, even if the DOC had decided to reclassify him as a minimum/medium security risk.

Police said Brown strangled his Miami Correctional Facility cell mate, Charles Miller, simply because Brown didn’t like being at the Bunker Hill Facility.

Now Brown is back at the Westville Control Unit, the small, maximum-security lockdown facility where he was once housed for more than three years, after committing a plethora of assaults and other serious offenses at another maximum security facility.

To place Brown back into the Westville Control Unit, the DOC had to move someone else out.

That’s the nature of the prison overcrowding problem in Indiana, where bed space for the most violent offenders is always in short supply.

As of April, the DOC had 6,120 male inmates classified at the highest security level, and only 26 vacant beds for that level. By comparison, the DOC had 15,737 inmates at the second highest security level, and 440 bed spaces for that level.

State prison officials acknowledge that’s why more and more maximum security offenders are being placed at Miami Correctional, a prison state officials once said would remain a minimum/medium security facility.

According to the DOC, part of the reason maximum security space is scarce is the number of low-level offenders being sentenced to prison.

The number of people in the Indiana DOC system for a Class D felony — the lowest on Indiana’s four-tier scale of felonies — grew by 31 percent between 2005 and 2010, according to DOC statistics.

That growth far outpaced the prison population as a whole, which grew by 6.8 percent in the same period.

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