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Independent analysis finds DOC’s population will grow under new criminal code

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A report released Dec. 10 predicts that Indiana’s new criminal code will increase the number of individuals incarcerated in state prisons to the point where a new facility may have to be built.

Applied Research Services detailed its analysis of the new criminal code contained in HEA 1006 to the members of the Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Committee. The Atlanta-based company projected that with judges continuing to hand down sentences similar in duration to the ones they hand down now, the prison population will balloon to 35,504 by 2024.

Although the belief is that the Indiana Department of Correction will reach capacity at 30,000 inmates, John Speir of ARS cautioned the committee from interpreting the number as a “construction issue.” The predicted population, he said, does not mean the DOC is facing a crucial mass.

The new criminal code is the first major overhaul of the state’s criminal statute since 1977. It changed felonies from the current four levels to six and revised the penalties to make the punishment proportional to the offense. It also calls for low-level offenders to be kept in the local communities for mental health and addiction treatment rather than being sent to the DOC.

Advocates for the new code say putting nonviolent defendants into programs within their own communities will reduce the number of repeat offenders.

“The goal is to deal with low-level nonviolent offenders in a different manner,” said Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon. “As a result of this goal, we believe the DOC population should go down.”

Passed during the 2013 legislative session, the criminal code is not scheduled to take effect until July 1, 2014. The Indiana General Assembly purposefully built in the delay to give an interim study committee the opportunity to review the bill and suggest changes.  

As part of the work on HEA 1006, the Legislative Services Agency and the Indiana Department of Correction did their own analysis of the impact on the prison population.

The two entities projected opposition outcomes.

Current law is expected to increase the number of inmates at the DOC from the current 29,500 to just over 31,000 by 2024. The DOC predicted under the new criminal code, the population will exceed the current law projections by 2,000 inmates between 2014 and 2024. The model by the LSA has the population decreasing by 1,200 to 1,600 inmates by 2025.

During the later part of the recession, Indiana’s prison population was actually flat, a trend mirrored by other states, Speir said. However, in 2013, the number of inmates jumped 9 percent.

Speir said he considers that an anomaly and expects Indiana will return to an average growth rate of 1 to 2 percent.

He also made two other key assumptions when developing his predictions.

Speir said he expected judges would not suspend more sentences although HEA 1006 gives them greater discretion to do so. Also, he assumed that even though the new criminal code will have new advisory sentences, judges will likely continue to sentence as they do under the current law then gradually crawl to the new advisories.

Allen Superior Court Judge John Surbeck dispelled the last assumption, explaining sentencing is a process which begins with the advisory sentence. Then the aggravators and mitigators are weighed to arrive at the punishment that is appropriate.

Steuerwald said Surbeck’s testimony made an impression on the committee. The thought, previously, was that judges work toward a number. Surbeck clarified that the point of the process is not to arrive at a prison term but at a sentence that fits the crime.

The committee, chaired by Sen. R. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, will meet for the last time Dec. 19.

A special committee workgroup of Steuerwald and Reps. Jud McMillion and Matt Pierce along with Sen. Brent Steele, will give its recommendations for tweaks to the code’s sentencing grid based on Speir’s projections. In addition, the recidivism working group, led by Steuerwald, will present its findings.    
 

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  1. Just an aside, but regardless of the outcome, I 'm proud of Judge William Hughes. He was the original magistrate on the Home place issue. He ruled for Home Place, and was primaried by Brainard for it. Their tool Poindexter failed to unseat Hughes, who won support for his honesty and courage throughout the county, and he was reelected Judge of Hamilton County's Superior Court. You can still stand for something and survive. Thanks, Judge Hughes!

  2. CCHP's real accomplishment is the 2015 law signed by Gov Pence that basically outlaws any annexation that is forced where a 65% majority of landowners in the affected area disagree. Regardless of whether HP wins or loses, the citizens of Indiana will not have another fiasco like this. The law Gov Pence signed is a direct result of this malgovernance.

  3. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  4. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  5. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

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