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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. Someone off their meds? C'mon John, it is called the politics of Empire. Get with the program, will ya? How can we build one world under secularist ideals without breaking a few eggs? Of course, once it is fully built, is the American public who will feel the deadly grip of the velvet glove. One cannot lay down with dogs without getting fleas. The cup of wrath is nearly full, John Smith, nearly full. Oops, there I go, almost sounding as alarmist as Smith. Guess he and I both need to listen to this again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRnQ65J02XA

  2. Charles Rice was one of the greatest of the so-called great generation in America. I was privileged to count him among my mentors. He stood firm for Christ and Christ's Church in the Spirit of Thomas More, always quick to be a good servant of the King, but always God's first. I had Rice come speak to 700 in Fort Wayne as Obama took office. Rice was concerned that this rise of aggressive secularism and militant Islam were dual threats to Christendom,er, please forgive, I meant to say "Western Civilization". RIP Charlie. You are safe at home.

  3. It's a big fat black mark against the US that they radicalized a lot of these Afghan jihadis in the 80s to fight the soviets and then when they predictably got around to biting the hand that fed them, the US had to invade their homelands, install a bunch of corrupt drug kingpins and kleptocrats, take these guys and torture the hell out of them. Why for example did the US have to sodomize them? Dubya said "they hate us for our freedoms!" Here, try some of that freedom whether you like it or not!!! Now they got even more reasons to hate us-- lets just keep bombing the crap out of their populations, installing more puppet regimes, arming one faction against another, etc etc etc.... the US is becoming a monster. No wonder they hate us. Here's my modest recommendation. How about we follow "Just War" theory in the future. St Augustine had it right. How about we treat these obvious prisoners of war according to the Geneva convention instead of torturing them in sadistic and perverted ways.

  4. As usual, John is "spot-on." The subtle but poignant points he makes are numerous and warrant reflection by mediators and users. Oh but were it so simple.

  5. ACLU. Way to step up against the police state. I see a lot of things from the ACLU I don't like but this one is a gold star in its column.... instead of fighting it the authorities should apologize and back off.

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