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Interim criminal law study committee to examine sentencing questions

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The process to correct and clarify House Enrolled Act 1006, the massive piece of legislation overhauling the state’s criminal code, will begin Aug. 15 at the first meeting of the Indiana General Assembly’s Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee.

The Legislative Council saddled the committee with a hefty agenda, leading Chairman Sen. R. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, to say he expects the committee will need to meet more than the four times allotted and the meetings will probably be all-day affairs.

At Thursday’s meeting, the group will begin reviewing provisions in HEA 1006 that have been earmarked as in need of correcting or clarifying. The agenda calls for committee members to discuss a draft of a Title 7.1 revision and unspecified fiscal issues.    

Young  pointed out the committee has a specific duty and will not be considering the broad question of whether or not Indiana’s criminal code should be changed.

“Our charge is not policy but merely to reconcile and review so it all goes together,” Young said. “We won’t be rethinking policy.”

Thursday’s meeting will start at 10 a.m. and be held in room 130 of the Statehouse, 200 W. Washington St.

When HEA 1006 was passed by the 2013 Legislature, the bill was delayed from taking effect until July 1, 2014. This was purposefully done in order to give the General Assembly time to tweak the measure.   
 
One key duty the committee has during this interim session will be to study the sentencing provisions in HEA 1006 and try to settle the dispute over whether the legislation will increase or decrease the number of inmates in Indiana, especially at the county jails. Currently, the Indiana Department of Correction’s view that the bill will expand the state’s prison population is at odds with the interpretation by the Legislative Services Agency that the number of incarcerated will drop.

Rep. Greg Steuerwald, who authored HEA 1006 and is a member of Young’s committee, said sentencing remains a big issue but, based on experiences in other states, the revision of the criminal code could bring a reduction in prison population along with a lower crime rate and drop in recidivism in Indiana.  

“I’m very happy with where we are at this point,” the Danville Republican said. “I think we’re probably 80 to 90 percent done, but what is left to be done is very critical. In some respects it’s the most important piece. We’ve got to make sure we get the sentencing grid correct.”

To provide an analysis, the committee may get help from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. According to Steuerwald, the ICJI would spend its funds to hire outside experts to review HEA 1006’s sentencing guidelines and assess the impact on the state’s inmate population.

Based on that data, Steuerwald said, the committee would then adjust the sentencing grid to maintain proportionality and control the prison population.

However, the representative emphasized no one has been hired to do this analysis. Rather, the committee is sending a request, outlining what it wants the outside experts to provide, and asking for a cost estimate.











 

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