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New Indiana criminal code closer to implementation

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Emerging from the Indiana House of Representatives, the criminal code revision bill includes stronger sentences for certain crimes. Two companion bills that legislators say will provide the necessary funding for treatment programs in the local communities are also moving.

The goal of House Bill 1006, the criminal code rewrite, is to bring proportionality to the sentencing scheme and reduce recidivism. A key part of the state’s new thinking on crime and punishment is to put more lower-level offenders into treatment programs to help with the drug addictions and mental health issues that many of the these inmates have.

Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon, and Sen. R. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, both have authored measures in response to concerns among the judiciary, sheriffs association, and probation and community corrections officials that the state will keep more offenders in cities and towns but will not provide the financial support.

steuerwald Steuerwald

The bills drew praise from David Powell, executive director of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, which he said set up the mechanisms through which the money will flow to the communities and by which the effectiveness of the programs will be measured.


powell Powell

HB 1006 is the technical corrections bill to reconcile conflicts between the criminal code revision passed last year, HEA 1006-2013, and other bills. The House approved the technical corrections bill on a vote of 90 to 4 and now the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee will begin its review.

Powell described HB 1006 as it is now as “a good tool that will function and improve public safety in Indiana.”

However, Larry Landis, executive director of the Indiana Public Defender Council, contends the sentencing changes made in the House will increase the prison population and force the state to build a new penitentiary.


landis-larry-mug Landis

Drug dealing

During the summer, the Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee carefully examined the sentencing structure in HEA 1006-2013. The Indiana Department of Correction was concerned the new criminal code would actually put more offenders behind bars, causing significant overcrowding in state’s prisons.

Steuerwald said the adjustments made in the House to sentencing represent a compromise. The advisory sentences for the crime of dealing narcotics were raised. At the same time, the sentences for these offenses remained suspendable.

In addition, the House increased the credit time for the lowest-level offenders. HB 1006 called for inmates to receive one day of credit for every three days they serve. The modification will allow these offenders to get one day of credit for every day they serve.

“Doing that will have a pretty dramatic effect of lowering the population in the DOC,” Steuerwald said.

Landis disagreed. He said the amendments made in the House were not recommended by the study committee and will only put more people in prison for longer periods of time. The current form of the bill, he said, will increase the number incarcerated to the point where the state will have to spend millions building a new prison or will get slapped with a federal court order to correct the overcrowding.

The advisory sentences for individuals charged with dealing opiates now range from a low of 3 years to a high of 10 years. Also, for the highest level of drug dealing offense, the amount the individual had to be caught with was dropped from more than 28 grams to more than 10 grams.

Young said he is contemplating offering an amendment to HB 1006 that would allow the state to begin tacking. Under this provision, every time a drug dealer is arrested, the amount they are carrying is tacked on to any amounts they were carrying when they were arrested previous times.

Treatment

Arresting and incarcerating drug dealers does not do anything to reduce demand for the narcotics, Powell said. The demand problem should be addressed by enrolling addicts into special programs to help them overcome their dependency on drugs and to deal with the mental health issues many of them struggle against.

Powell and Landis agreed that programs that provide treatment, monitoring and supervision can reduce recidivism and lower the crime rate.

Steuerwald’s bill, HB 1268, requires treatment programs to use evidence-based practices and establishes a grant structure for the DOC to use when awarding money to local communities. It requires the Department of Correction to consult with the Indiana Judicial Conference and the Division of Mental Health and Addiction before giving out the grants.

In the Senate, Young has introduced Senate Bill 235 that would start a mental health pilot project in Marion County. The measure mirrors Steuerwald’s bill in that it requires the use of best practices for the treatment programs and establishes the criteria for the DOC to award grants.

Also, both pieces of legislation create the mental health and addiction forensic treatment services account to fund the treatment programs. Money in the account would come from appropriations from the Indiana General Assembly, grants and gifts or bequests.

Henry Circuit Judge Mary Willis said the Indiana Judges Association wants to see funding provided for the local programs. With more low-level criminals staying in their communities, the municipalities will need more money to provide for the additional probation officers and community corrections officials who will be needed for supervising the offenders.

To ensure the communities can handle more offenders, Landis is advocating for the treatment programs to be set up and running before the sentences are increased.

Steuerwald, Young and Willis do not want to delay the implementation of HB 1006 from the target date of July 1. The legislators pointed out their bills, if passed, can be immediately implemented and the programs can be started before any individuals are sentenced under the new criminal code.

Willis said tweaks and adjustments can be made as needed once the legislation takes effect.

“This is so big that there’s going to have to be an opportunity to put it into place and see how it operates,” she said.•

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  • Wisdom of the Judge
    Thank you Henry Circuit Judge Mary Willis for your honorable leadership and integrity. And thank you for stepping forward and speaking out. The canned sentencing that was fashioned by intolerance did not allow for wise decisions on behalf of thousands of offenders who were handed down lengthy sentences. Revisiting those cases where gross injustice was inflicted will be a feather in the cap of Indiana. Many of them sentenced to lengthy terms have just been heartbroken and long ago rehabilitated while still sitting in their cells today looking hopefully to July 1, 2014. Let's not let these folks down. Have Swift Mercy Indiana. These are not bad people, most of them just made some bad choices that they regret dearly. Thank you all for HB 1006
  • Wisdom of the Judge
    Thank you Henry Circuit Judge Mary Willis for your honorable leadership and integrity. And thank you for stepping forward and speaking out. The canned sentencing that was fashioned by intolerance did not allow for wise decisions on behalf of thousands of offenders who were handed down lengthy sentences. Revisiting those cases where gross injustice was inflicted will be a feather in the cap of Indiana. Many of them sentenced to lengthy terms have just been heartbroken and long ago rehabilitated while still sitting in their cells today looking hopefully to July 1, 2014. Let's not let these folks down. Have Swift Mercy Indiana. These are not bad people, most of them just made some bad choices that they regret dearly. Thank you all for HB 1006

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  1. Indianapolis employers harassment among minorities AFRICAN Americans needs to be discussed the metro Indianapolis area is horrible when it comes to harassing African American employees especially in the local healthcare facilities. Racially profiling in the workplace is an major issue. Please make it better because I'm many civil rights leaders would come here and justify that Indiana is a state the WORKS only applies to Caucasian Americans especially in Hamilton county. Indiana targets African Americans in the workplace so when governor pence is trying to convince people to vote for him this would be awesome publicity for the Presidency Elections.

  2. Wishing Mary Willis only God's best, and superhuman strength, as she attempts to right a ship that too often strays far off course. May she never suffer this personal affect, as some do who attempt to change a broken system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QojajMsd2nE

  3. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  4. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  5. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

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