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Fighting crime from behind bars

Posted at 8:34 PM, Mar 22, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS -- Fighting crime before an inmate leaves his prison cell is one of the key parts of the effort to cut crime rates in Central Indiana – but one we don't normally see.

The cost of public safety and criminal justice begins at the moment of arrest. The ride to jail and the processing expense costs taxpayers no less than $800 per arrest. And the cost per day of keeping someone in jail ranges from $60 to $130 per day. Forty thousand people go through the Marion County jail each year – many of them repeat offenders.

"If we don't start to deal with these issues prior to release, we know that within 72 hours, many of the people are going to recidivate," said IMPD Chief of Staff Brian Reeder.

The city wants to take services to inmates before their release from jail.

Davinci Richardson runs a transitional housing program and works with inmates prior to their release back to the streets.

"We should begin grinding with them and trying to change them while they're in," Richardson said. "Then we'll get the product that we want when they get out."

The primary need of most offenders released from jail and prison is housing. Simply Divine transitional housing on the city's east side provides that safe haven for ex-offenders like Nate Arnold to recover from a drug addiction.

"To me, it's your environment," Arnold said. "It's everything. I've always had the desire to quit. But when my friends are all involved, that's what you do."

Arnold's drug addiction has put him in the Department of Corrections for 13 of his 32 years. A year in prison costs Indiana taxpayers more than $20,000. A fraction of that might have saved taxpayers money and Arnold a return trip to prison, where he received little help.

"I went through some programs and everything," Arnold said. "I don't think they were set up in the right way to really help you.'

Re-entry specialists have crunched the numbers: for every 50 people that don't return to prison, it will save taxpayers $1.5 million.

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