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Criminal code committee still trying to answer funding and sentencing questions

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The Indiana General Assembly passed an overhaul of the state’s criminal code during 2013 but left two major issues for the upcoming session – funding and sentencing.

If the new code causes the state prison population to  rise faster, the Legislature will have to consider modifying sentences to not only slow the rate of growth but also to lower the costs so funds are available to invest in community corrections.

Since August, the Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee has been examining the code’s sentencing grid and fiscal impact along with programs to reduce recidivism. The committee plans to meet for a final time in December to hear the results of two studies that are expected to provide a better picture of the financial aspect.

Gov. Mike Pence signed House Bill 1006, which changed the criminal code, in May 2013. However, the Legislature purposefully delayed making those changes effective until 2014 in order to provide time to make any needed adjustments to the measure.

Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, served on the Criminal Code Evaluation Commission which helped craft the new criminal code and signed on as a co-author of the subsequent bill.

She said the Legislature needs to make an investment in community corrections and probation, as called for in the revised code. Otherwise, she continued, the entire process to revamp the state’s criminal statute will have been a waste of time.

A central goal behind the new criminal code is to reduce recidivism by keeping lower-level offenders in their home counties where they would be handled through intensive supervision and monitoring as well as treatment for drug addiction and mental illness.

Money to enable Indiana municipalities to hire more probation officers and expand community corrections was anticipated to come from savings realized by having fewer inmates incarcerated in state prisons. The worst convicts would be housed by the DOC but perpetrators of lesser crimes would stay in their communities for rehabilitation.

Experts and organizations testifying before the committee were universal in their message that programs aimed at reducing recidivism work.

Yet, separate reports from the DOC and the Legislative Services Agency came to different conclusions about how the new criminal code would impact the prison population. If the Department of Correction’s projections are correct and the number of inmates increases at a quicker pace, the savings would evaporate. More money would have to go to housing and caring for these individuals so less would be available to send to local communities.

Committee Chair Sen. R. Michael Young said the state will have to spend money on its correctional system either way. The Indianapolis Republican said the Legislature will have to decide whether to beef-up appropriations for local programs or put millions of dollars into building and maintaining a new state penitentiary.  

Already, the prisons are just a few thousand inmates away from reaching the maximum capacity of 30,000. The whole idea, Young said, is to avoid building another state correctional facility.

Members of the committee said to control the prison population, the Legislature would have to adjust sentencing or possibly increase the credits inmates can receive. Most likely, sentences would be reduced for nonviolent offenders who commit property and drug crimes.   

To help answer the questions raised by the conflicting projections from the DOC and the LSA, the committee enlisted the assistance of two groups to study the impact of the new criminal code.

Applied Research Group is studying the effect of the sentencing changes contained in the new code on the DOC. Roger Jarjoura, principal researcher at the American Institutes for Research, is analyzing the impact on the local criminal justice system.

“We want to see what the studies show and what the impact will be so we can make an informed decision” about sentencing and funding, said Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Danville.

However, Larry Landis, executive director of the Indiana Public Defender Council, charged state prosecutors have long hijacked the process by pushing for increased sentences and the Legislature has been unwilling to push back.

The prosecutors, Landis said, are running the system because they have all the power “and the only way to take it from them is to rip it out of their clenched bloody fists.”

A member of the committee, Landis also served on the former Criminal Code Evaluation Commission which examined the criminal code and recommended changes. He said he is frustrated, especially since the “judicial reinvestment model” of putting money into local supervision and treatment has been proven to work. But increasing prison terms damages the reinvestment model because it decreases the savings.

Sending offenders back to the local communities will be a disaster, Landis said, if the money is not available to provide for the supervision and treatment. Without proper monitoring, the individuals will likely violate their probation and land in a state prison.

 

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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