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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. All the lawyers involved in this don't add up to a hill of beans; mostly yes-men punching their tickets for future advancement. REMF types. Window dressing. Who in this mess was a real hero? the whistleblower that let the public know about the torture, whom the US sent to Jail. John Kyriakou. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/26/us/ex-officer-for-cia-is-sentenced-in-leak-case.html?_r=0 Now, considering that Torture is Illegal, considering that during Vietnam a soldier was court-martialed and imprisoned for waterboarding, why has the whistleblower gone to jail but none of the torturers have been held to account? It's amazing that Uncle Sam's sunk lower than Vietnam. But that's where we're at. An even more unjust and pointless war conducted in an even more bogus manner. this from npr: "On Jan. 21, 1968, The Washington Post ran a front-page photo of a U.S. soldier supervising the waterboarding of a captured North Vietnamese soldier. The caption said the technique induced "a flooding sense of suffocation and drowning, meant to make him talk." The picture led to an Army investigation and, two months later, the court martial of the soldier." Today, the US itself has become lawless.

  2. "Brain Damage" alright.... The lunatic is on the grass/ The lunatic is on the grass/ Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs/ Got to keep the loonies on the path.... The lunatic is in the hall/ The lunatics are in my hall/ The paper holds their folded faces to the floor/ And every day the paper boy brings more/ And if the dam breaks open many years too soon/ And if there is no room upon the hill/ And if your head explodes with dark forbodings too/ I'll see you on the dark side of the moon!!!

  3. It is amazing how selectively courts can read cases and how two very similar factpatterns can result in quite different renderings. I cited this very same argument in Brown v. Bowman, lost. I guess it is panel, panel, panel when one is on appeal. Sad thing is, I had Sykes. Same argument, she went the opposite. Her Rooker-Feldman jurisprudence is now decidedly unintelligible.

  4. November, 2014, I was charged with OWI/Endangering a person. I was not given a Breathalyzer test and the arresting officer did not believe that alcohol was in any way involved. I was self-overmedicated with prescription medications. I was taken to local hospital for blood draw to be sent to State Tox Lab. My attorney gave me a cookie-cutter plea which amounts to an ALCOHOL-related charge. Totally unacceptable!! HOW can I get my TOX report from the state lab???

  5. My mother got temporary guardianship of my children in 2012. my husband and I got divorced 2015 the judge ordered me to have full custody of all my children. Does this mean the temporary guardianship is over? I'm confused because my divorce papers say I have custody and he gets visits and i get to claim the kids every year on my taxes. So just wondered since I have in black and white that I have custody if I can go get my kids from my moms and not go to jail?

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