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Lawmakers discuss sentencing

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At the Oct. 19 meeting of the Indiana Criminal Code Evaluation Commission, lawmakers heard proposals that aim to reduce the number of inmates housed in the Indiana Department of Correction. Presented for review were plans to assign more offenders to community rehabilitative programs and to restructure felony classes.

Deborah Daniels, a partner with Krieg DeVault, presented recommendations from the commission’s work group. She said that Indiana’s current system of classifying felonies as A, B, C or D class may lead to sentences that are inappropriately harsh for a given offense. As an example, she said that dealing in less than three grams of cocaine or a narcotic is currently a Class B felony, but that anything more than three grams – whether that’s four grams or 20 grams – automatically makes the crime a Class A felony.

Daniels said the working group proposes felonies to be assessed in levels, numbered one through six, with a Level 1 felony being assessed only for meth lab explosions causing serious bodily injury to someone other than the manufacturer or causing property damage in excess of $10,000. Under the working group’s Felony Proportionality Proposal, dealing less than three grams of cocaine would be a Level 5 felony; between three and 10 grams would be a Level 4 felony; between 10 and 28 grams would be a Level 3 felony; and an amount higher than 28 grams would merit a Level 2 felony.

The commission discussed sentence enhancements, with Sen. Lindel Hume, D-Princeton, interjecting.

“It concerns me that we have this 1,000 feet from a school enhancement,” he said. He said he knows of instances where police who have arrested someone on a drug offense have offered that offender a reduced sentence if he or she can stage another deal. And Hume said that police sometimes try to ensure that a staged drug deal is within 1,000 feet of a school, resulting in an enhanced sentence, which Hume said is bordering on entrapment.

“If it’s at midnight and you’re within 1,000 feet of a school, there are no children that will be present,” Hume said. Daniels said that a better approach may be to rewrite that enhancement to specify that a child would have to be within 1,000 feet of the drug deal for the enhancement to apply.
 

foley-ralph-mug.jpgFoley

Rep. Ralph Foley, R-Martinsville, said, “Through the years, I’ve become less enamored with geography as a criminal element, unless it puts other people or children at risk.”

Daniels also offered revisions to marijuana charges, which would reclassify as misdemeanors several offenses that are currently felonies. Driver’s license suspension would no longer accompany marijuana charges, as she said the working group felt that added punishment “did more harm than good.”

Daniels said the working group would try to have sentencing terms drafted before the committee’s next meeting on Nov. 2.

Reducing recidivism

Foley discussed a potential addition to Indiana Criminal Code Section 11-13 that would create a Probation Improvement Fund at the county level to be administered by the DOC. Using appropriations from the General Assembly, along with donations, gifts and money transferred from other funds or accounts, Foley said the fund would enable county probation departments to develop and use progressive sanctions for dealing with probation violations. It would also be designed to help departments address the needs of offenders with substance abuse and mental health problems.

“There are D felons that need to go to prison, and we should make that determination on the local level,” Foley said. “If the D felon should not go to prison for a commitment of at least one year, then that needs to be handled in the community.”


head-randy-mug.jpg Head

Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, said that based on his past experience as deputy prosecutor he saw the merit in Foley’s proposal.

“You’re absolutely right that sometimes D felons need to go to the department of correction,” he said. “The beauty of this is it gives each county the flexibility it needs to deal with different situations.”

Head said that when an offender is picked up for a probation violation, by the time he’s “processed” he gets credit for time served and ends up feeling like he’s gotten away with the undesirable behavior. Immediate sanctions – like a few days in a jail for a drug offender who tests positive for a controlled substance – would be much more effective in deterring repeat offenses, Head said.

At its Oct. 4 meeting, Randy Koester, deputy commissioner of the DOC, explained that the DOC reduced parole and probation revocations for technical violations, increased the number of counties with community corrections programs and requested prosecuting attorneys and criminal court judges in each county to consider other sanctions besides prison for persons sentenced for nonviolent crimes.

Foley said an important step in preventing recidivism is recognizing that offenders who remain in their communities may be able to benefit from supports and services in a more immediate fashion. While the DOC has several rehabilitative programs for offenders, the time it takes for inmates to be processed, sent to DOC facilities and participate in the programs may be longer than the inmate’s incarceration, which in turn leads to people being unable to complete the program.

Tim Brown, director of legislative services for the DOC, said that the DOC’s outpatient substance abuse treatment is completed in three phases and that offenders must be able to complete Phase 1 (two to four weeks), Phase 2 (an average of three months) and part of Phase 3. Literacy programs take an average of six months to complete, and GED diploma programs take about six to nine months to complete.

“We need at the very minimum eight to nine months to effectively get an offender into any type of programming at the DOC,” Brown said.

Foley’s proposal also called for a Substance Abuse Treatment Fund and a County Offender Fund which would be used at the local level to defray the costs of housing an inmate, to support community corrections programs and to support problem-solving courts and work release programs.

“I have become convinced that we can do a better job of probation. Swift and certain sanctions are meaningful,” Foley said. He explained that the proposed changes are based on what has worked in other parts of the country.

Foley said it’s important to keep in mind that many of the people who are being picked up on probation violations are men with low-level drug offenses who have child support obligations and families that need their help. Keeping them connected to the community rather than in the DOC is better for society in general, he added.•
 

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  1. Perhaps the lady chief justice, or lady appellate court chief judge, or one of the many female federal court judges in Ind could lead this discussion of gender disparity? THINK WITH ME .... any real examples of race or gender bias reported on this ezine? But think about ADA cases ... hmmmm ... could it be that the ISC actually needs to tighten its ADA function instead? Let's ask me or Attorney Straw. And how about religion? Remember it, it used to be right up there with race, and actually more protected than gender. Used to be. Patrick J Buchanan observes: " After World War II, our judicial dictatorship began a purge of public manifestations of the “Christian nation” Harry Truman said we were. In 2009, Barack Obama retorted, “We do not consider ourselves to be a Christian nation.” Secularism had been enthroned as our established religion, with only the most feeble of protests." http://www.wnd.com/2017/02/is-secession-a-solution-to-cultural-war/#q3yVdhxDVMMxiCmy.99 I could link to any of my supreme court filings here, but have done that more than enough. My case is an exclamation mark on what PJB writes. BUT not in ISC, where the progressives obsess on race and gender .... despite a lack of predicate acts in the past decade. Interested in reading more on this subject? Search for "Florida" on this ezine.

  2. Great questions to six jurists. The legislature should open a probe to investigate possible government corruption. Cj rush has shown courage as has justice Steven David. Who stands with them?

  3. The is an unsigned editorial masquerading as a news story. Almost everyone quoted was biased in favor of letting all illegal immigrants remain in the U.S. (Ignoring that Obama deported 3.5 million in 8 years). For some reason Obama enforcing part of the immigration laws was O.K. but Trump enforcing additional parts is terrible. I have listed to press conferences and explanations of the Homeland Security memos and I gather from them that less than 1 million will be targeted for deportation, the "dreamers" will be left alone and illegals arriving in the last two years -- especially those arriving very recently -- will be subject to deportation but after the criminals. This will not substantially affect the GDP negatively, especially as it will take place over a number of years. I personally think this is a rational approach to the illegal immigration problem. It may cause Congress to finally pass new immigration laws rationalizing the whole immigration situation.

  4. Mr. Straw, I hope you prevail in the fight. Please show us fellow American's that there is a way to fight the corrupted justice system and make them an example that you and others will not be treated unfairly. I hope you the best and good luck....

  5. @ President Snow - Nah, why try to fix something that ain't broken??? You do make an excellent point. I am sure some Mickey or Minnie Mouse will take Ruckers seat, I wonder how his retirement planning is coming along???

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