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Counties worry about cost of criminal code changes

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Sweeping changes to Indiana's criminal code took effect Tuesday that will send more low-level, nonviolent criminals to community corrections programs and jails instead of state prisons, causing concern by some about the financial burden it will put on counties.

The new guidelines establish felony ranges numbered from Class 1 to Class 6, instead of the previous A through D system. They also decrease minimum sentences for many crimes, but call for the most serious felons to serve 75 percent of their sentences, instead of 50 percent.

The code updates provide for two possible funding mechanisms. Sheriffs can receive a per diem and medical expense reimbursement for felony offenders with a release date of less than 90 days. Starting next year, the reimbursements include the lowest-level felony offenders with a release date of less than 366 days. Both are subject to approval by the state budget agency.

The law allows for $11 million in grants to community corrections and probation departments if the Department of Correction saves money because of the code changes. If there are no savings, there will be no grants.

"All other states that have done justice reinvestment have set aside money — Indiana has done nothing yet," Monroe County chief probation officer Linda Brady told The Herald-Times. "I keep saying 'yet,' because I'm hopeful."

Lake County Sheriff John Buncich told The Times of Munster that he doesn't foresee an immediate impact, but expects to see an increase in the jail population as judges begin implementing the new sentencing guidelines.

"I'm afraid we are in for some problems down the road," Buncich said.

The Lake County Jail already is under federal oversight after the U.S. Department of Justice cited the jail in 2009 as deficient in health care and sanitation.

Larry Landis, executive director of the Indiana Public Defender Council, said counties can request more money for community corrections programs. Indiana lawmakers also are also expected to appropriate money to increase programs to help offenders with mental illness and substance abuse problems.

"I think that is the concern; will the money follow?" Landis said. "We will know once they go back into session in January."

Porter County Superior Judge William Alexa told the Post-Tribune of Merrillville he's concerned the requirement that more serious criminals serve 75 percent of their sentences instead of 50 percent could negate the original intent of the law.

"It's going to make longer prison terms, and the prison population is going to go up," Alexa said.
 

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  1. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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