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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. Indianapolis employers harassment among minorities AFRICAN Americans needs to be discussed the metro Indianapolis area is horrible when it comes to harassing African American employees especially in the local healthcare facilities. Racially profiling in the workplace is an major issue. Please make it better because I'm many civil rights leaders would come here and justify that Indiana is a state the WORKS only applies to Caucasian Americans especially in Hamilton county. Indiana targets African Americans in the workplace so when governor pence is trying to convince people to vote for him this would be awesome publicity for the Presidency Elections.

  2. Wishing Mary Willis only God's best, and superhuman strength, as she attempts to right a ship that too often strays far off course. May she never suffer this personal affect, as some do who attempt to change a broken system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QojajMsd2nE

  3. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  4. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  5. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

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