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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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  2. A traditional parade of attorneys? Really Evansville? Y'all need to get out more. When is the traditional parade of notaries? Nurses? Sanitation workers? Pole dancers? I gotta wonder, do throngs of admiring citizens gather to laud these marching servants of the constitution? "Show us your billing records!!!" Hoping some video gets posted. Ours is not a narcissistic profession by any chance, is it? Nah .....

  3. My previous comment not an aside at court. I agree with smith. Good call. Just thought posting here a bit on the if it bleeds it leads side. Most attorneys need to think of last lines of story above.

  4. Hello everyone I'm Gina and I'm here for the exact same thing you are. I have the wonderful joy of waking up every morning to my heart being pulled out and sheer terror of what DCS is going to Throw at me and my family today.Let me start from the !bebeginning.My daughter lost all rights to her 3beautiful children due to Severe mental issues she no longer lives in our state and has cut all ties.DCS led her to belive that once she done signed over her right the babies would be with their family. We have faught screamed begged and anything else we could possibly due I hired a lawyer five grand down the drain.You know all I want is my babies home.I've done everything they have even asked me to do.Now their saying I can't see my grandchildren cause I'M on a prescription for paipain.I have a very rare blood disease it causes cellulitis a form of blood poisoning to stay dormant in my tissues and nervous system it also causes a ,blood clotting disorder.even with the two blood thinners I'm on I still Continue to develop them them also.DCS knows about my illness and still they refuse to let me see my grandchildren. I Love and miss them so much Please can anyone help Us my grandchildren and I they should be worrying about what toy there going to play with but instead there worrying about if there ever coming home again.THANK YOU DCS FOR ALL YOU'VE DONE. ( And if anyone at all has any ideals or knows who can help. Please contact (765)960~5096.only serious callers

  5. He must be a Rethuglican, for if from the other side of the aisle such acts would be merely personal and thus not something that attaches to his professional life. AND ... gotta love this ... oh, and on top of talking dirty on the phone, he also, as an aside, guess we should mention, might be important, not sure, but .... "In addition to these allegations, Keaton was accused of failing to file an appeal after he collected advance payment from a client seeking to challenge a ruling that the client repay benefits because of unreported income." rimshot

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