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Criminal law committee passes pilot programs, studies

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Four proposals approved during the final meeting of the Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee appear headed for consideration during the 2014 session of the Indiana General Assembly.

The primary piece of legislation passed was a cleanup bill that established sentencing policy for the state’s new criminal code. Key provisions in the draft include:

• limiting the number of times an offender may file a petition to modify a sentence

• removing the requirement that courts hold a hearing on petitions to modify

• requiring additional prison terms for habitual offenders

• increasing advisory sentences for Level 3, 4 and 5 felonies

• increasing the number of crimes for which sentences are nonsuspendible

• requiring education credit-time be deducted from the release date

• removing the requirement that the courts explain their reasoning when imposing the advisory sentences

• giving a juvenile court jurisdiction over a child charged with criminal gang activity

• allowing offenders charged with a Level 5 or Level 6 felony to be put into a pretrial diversion program.

The committee also approved two bills that create pilot projects in Marion County.

The first bill establishes a three-year pilot program consolidating Marion County probation and community corrections. Joining together the operations, funding and staff, the new office will be called the Marion Superior Court Community Supervision Department. Funding will come through the community supervision fund, consisting of grants, appropriations and fees, and will be administered by an executive committee.

The other bill establishes a three-year mental health pilot project that requires community corrections to reduce recidivism by using evidence-based services, programs and practices. Mental health and substance-abuse treatment will be funded by grants and include vocational services, housing assistance and community support services.

Finally, the committee unanimously approved a proposal by Rep. Christina Hale, D-Indianapolis, to study the underreporting of certain crimes.

Hale’s bill requires the Commission on Improving the Status of Children in Indiana to study the underreporting of crimes against children. It also requires the Indiana Department of Health or its Office of Women’s Health to conduct a study on the number of victims of domestic and sexual violence, why these crimes are underreported, best practices to improve reporting, and the most effective way to connect victims with appropriate treatment.•

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