News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

November 3, 2012

Commission approves criminal code reforms

INDIANAPOLIS — The effort to overhaul major portions of Indiana’s criminal code to make punishment more proportionate to the crime moved another step forward Wednesday.

The state’s Criminal Code Evaluation Commission approved much of a 382-page draft of proposed legislation that contains sweeping changes to the code, including more levels of felonies, lower penalties for some drug and theft crimes and potentially more prison time for the worst sex and violent offenders.

The 16-member commission, which is made up of lawmakers, judges, and representatives from the state’s prosecutors, public defenders, and state prisons, failed to reach agreement on some key areas. Among them: the sentencing ranges for the six new felony levels that the commission thinks should replace the current four felony levels.

The commission also pulled back some language that dealt with the credit time that offenders can earn toward early release while in prison, and also pulled some of the proposed changes on how habitual offenders are sentenced. Those issues will have to be left for legislators to hammer out in the next legislative session, which begins in January.

But the commission pushed forward on some other critical areas: recommending that Indiana do away with its punitive “drug-free” zones that ratchet up prison terms and reducing a low-level theft from a felony to a misdemeanor.

State Sen. Richard Bray, a Republican commission member who’s retiring from the legislature after 38 years, said he wished the commission had come to consensus on all issues. But he also called the draft legislation that was approved by the commission on Wednesday “remarkable.”

“This all had been dead in the water,” said Bray, who had been part a failed sentencing reform effort in the 2010 session that was aimed at reducing the number of offenders in Indiana’s prisons. “It’s a credit to the commission that we’ve come this far.”

The 2010 sentencing reform effort was dashed in part by opposition from the state’s prosecutors, who were critical of proposed legislation that would have shifted more low-level offenders out of the state prisons and into county jails and community-based programs without many more resources.

In the draft of the proposed legislation approved by the commission Wednesday, there are provisions to provide more state dollars to local communities, including more money for community-based corrections and more money to counties for probation services.

State Rep. Matt Pierce, a Democrat from Bloomington and former commission chair, said even more dollars are going to be needed to make work a key piece of the proposed criminal code overhaul: the piece that would divert more low-level drug offenders into community-based treatment programs.

“I’m not interested in warehousing people in local jails rather than warehousing them in the DOC (Department of Correction),” Pierce said.

The only “nay” vote came from commission member David Powell, the executive director of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council.

Powell said county prosecutors agreed with much of the recommended changes to the state’s criminal code. But there were some sticking points: prosecutors opposed the penalty reductions for some of the drug and theft crimes.

The commission’s recommendations are noteworthy, as several members noted, because they were reached through a lengthy process, bipartisan agreement, and significant consensus among people who hold varying views on criminal justice.

But it’s also just the beginning: Now it has to be transformed into some massive legislation that both the state House and state Senate will approve and the next governor will sign.

Danville Republican State Rep. Greg Steuerwald, a commission member, is a likely sponsor of such legislation. “I think we can get this done in the next session,” said Steuerwald. “There’s more support for it than ever before.”

Maureen Hayden is the Indiana Statehouse bureau chief for CNHI, the parent company of the Tribune-Star. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local & Bistate
Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
UN Security Council Calls for MH 17 Crash Probe Raw: Plane Lands on New York Highway Hopkins to Pay $190M After Pelvic Exams Taped Texas Sending National Guard Troops to Border Obama Bestows Medal of Honor on NH Veteran Raw: International Team Inspects MH17 Bodies Raw: 25 Family Members Killed in Gaza Airstrike Recording May Show Attempt at Crash Cover-up Diplomacy Intensifies Amid Mounting Gaza Toll AP Exclusive: American Beaten in Israel Speaks Raw: Black Boxes of Downed Jetliner Turned Over Foxx Cites Washington 'Circus Mirror' New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts Raw: Gaza Rescuers Search Rubble for Survivors NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong Obama Voices Concern About Casualties in Mideast Wisc. Twins Celebrate a Century of Laughter Raw: Eric Garner's Wife Collapses at Rally in NY Raw: Gaza City Shelling Attack Legendary Actor James Garner Dies
NDN Video
Guilty Dog Apologizes to Baby for Stealing Her Toy Tony Dungy Weighs in on Michael Sam Obama: Putin must push separatists to aid MH17 probe Michigan inmates no longer allowed to wear orange due to 'OITNB' Adam Levine Ties the Knot Sebastian The Ibis Walks Beautiful Bride Down The Aisle | ACC Must See Moment NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong Faces of Souls Lost in Malaysian Plane Crash 105-year-old woman throws first pitch Man Creates Spreadsheet of Wife's Reasons for Turning Down Sex 'Weird Al' Is Wowed by Album's Success Rory McIlroy struggles, surges, wins British Open NOW TRENDING: Real life Pac-Man Explosions as hot air balloon crashes in Clinton DUI Driver Dragged to Safety by Officer After Walking Onto Busy Freeway Celebrities That We'd Like to Send to the Moon Spectacular lightning storm hits London Malaysian Flight Victim Was South Florida Grad Rory McIlroy on pace to break British Open records Officials Fear MH17 Site Now Tampered by Rebels
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity