The Washington Times-Herald

State News

October 31, 2012

Commission approves criminal code reforms

Legislature to hammer out final changes

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 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 of 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 much 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, D-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 Senate will approve and the next governor will sign.

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

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

1
Text Only
State News
  • nws-gb011714 Land Zeppelin 2 (front page pic) Inventor hopes Bike Zeppelin takes off GREENSBURG - A local civil engineer has created a Zeppelin-shaped apparatus that allows bicyclists to ride in the rain without getting wet. Greensburg resident Jim Gorman remembers the day that inspiration struck: Nov. 22, 2011. It rained all day, an

    January 17, 2014 3 Photos

  • Legislator pushes for public disclosure of former meth homes INDIANAPOLIS – State Rep. Wendy McNamara knew methamphetamine was a scourge on her district in southwestern Indiana, but the damaging effects of the drug really hit her when she met a real estate appraiser who’d suffered lung damage after visiting a

    December 14, 2013

  • Bird statue to be unveiled in Terre Haute Serving double duty as a baseball infielder for the American League's Toronto Blue Jays and basketball guard for Brigham Young University, 20-year-old Danny Ainge found time in March 1979 to drive from Provo, Utah, to Salt Lake City to catch an in-pe

    November 5, 2013

  • news school bill.jpg Pence announces school safety grants

    Flanked by fourth-grade members of the Ambassadors Club and student council at Cedar Elementary School here, Gov. Mike Pence announced more than $9 million in grants for schools statewide to enhance their security.

    November 1, 2013 1 Photo

  • Coats returns home to listen to Hoosiers INDIANAPOLIS -- Republican U.S. Sen. Dan Coats returned home to Indiana this week, hoping to turn the political conversation away from a failed GOP strategy that partially shut down the federal government and toward what he sees as more critical issu

    October 24, 2013

  • Congressman standing firm on government shutdown

    Todd Rokita of Indiana’s Fourth Congressional District has been an outspoken opponent of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — a k a Obamacare — since it was signed into law in 2010.

    On Tuesday, the first day the federal government partially shut down in 17 years, the Republican congressman wasn’t backing down.

    October 1, 2013

  • Laws that carry automatic loss of driver's license under review INDIANAPOLIS -- The legislative study committee that proposed the massive rewrite of Indiana's felony code will soon take on another tough issue: The automatic penalty that causes thousands of Hoosiers to lose their driving privileges for committing

    September 19, 2013

  • Gingerich_AP PHOTO.jpg Prison sentence of 12-year-old prompts new juvenile sentencing law

    Three years ago, when 12-year-old Paul Henry Gingerich became the youngest person in Indiana ever sent to prison as an adult, his story gained international attention and sparked questions about whether children belong behind bars with grown-up offenders.

    June 14, 2013 2 Photos

  • Supt_Ritz 1 .jpg Ritz orders independent analysis of ISTEP results

    Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz has hired an outside expert to determine the validity of ISTEP+ test scores of nearly 80,000 students who were kicked offline while taking the high-stakes standardized test.

    June 10, 2013 1 Photo

  • State won’t use free lunch program as poverty indicator

    Indiana is changing the way it counts low-income students in public schools because Republican legislators suspect fraud in the federal school-lunch program used to measure poverty.

    May 23, 2013