A state-appointed panel is trying to decide whether inmates convicted of Class D felonies should remain in the Indiana Department of Correction or be sent to county jails in Indiana.

"There are 4,100 Class D (felons) being held at the DOC," Wabash County Sheriff Bob Land told commissioners on Tuesday. "They are talking about putting them in jails around the state and that could mean as many as 45 (additional inmates) per county."

Land said there are currently 83 inmates in his jail and five are being housed in Miami County Jail.

The "they" Land referred to are the members of the Criminal Code Evaluation Commission. The commission is made up of senators, representatives, attorneys, judges and professors from around the state. Sen. Richard Bray (R-Martinsville) chairs the group, which is governed through the Indiana General Assembly.

Land said the commission is trying to decide how to alleviate the growing overcrowding at the DOC and will likely reach a decision within the month.

A Class D felony is the lowest level of felony crime in Indiana. A Class D felony conviction can be reduced to a Class A misdemeanor through a procedure known as Alternative Misdemeanor Sentencing.

Class D felony offenses can include operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OWI) as a second offense, maintaining a common nuisance, theft, criminal confinement and residential entry. It can carry a sentence from six months to three years in prison.

The commission has discussed the current situation of overcrowding and is considering various options to control it.

According to minutes from the Oct. 4 meeting of the commission, Randy Koester, deputy commissioner from the DOC, said "DOC reduced parole and probation revocations for technical violations, increased the number of counties with community corrections programs, and requested prosecuting attorneys and criminal court judges in each county to consider other sanctions besides prison for persons sentenced for nonviolent crimes."

To increase the number of releases, DOC also reduced time sanctions for prison rule violations, expanded rehabilitative program participation, increased community transition programming participation and expanded the "purposeful incarceration" concept.

The commission's next meeting is Oct. 19.

Copyright © 2020 Wabash Plain Dealer