New Indiana criminal code closer to implementation

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Emerging from the Indiana House of Representatives, the criminal code revision bill includes stronger sentences for certain crimes. Two companion bills that legislators say will provide the necessary funding for treatment programs in the local communities are also moving.

The goal of House Bill 1006, the criminal code rewrite, is to bring proportionality to the sentencing scheme and reduce recidivism. A key part of the state’s new thinking on crime and punishment is to put more lower-level offenders into treatment programs to help with the drug addictions and mental health issues that many of the these inmates have.

Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon, and Sen. R. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, both have authored measures in response to concerns among the judiciary, sheriffs association, and probation and community corrections officials that the state will keep more offenders in cities and towns but will not provide the financial support.

steuerwald Steuerwald

The bills drew praise from David Powell, executive director of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, which he said set up the mechanisms through which the money will flow to the communities and by which the effectiveness of the programs will be measured.

powell Powell

HB 1006 is the technical corrections bill to reconcile conflicts between the criminal code revision passed last year, HEA 1006-2013, and other bills. The House approved the technical corrections bill on a vote of 90 to 4 and now the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee will begin its review.

Powell described HB 1006 as it is now as “a good tool that will function and improve public safety in Indiana.”

However, Larry Landis, executive director of the Indiana Public Defender Council, contends the sentencing changes made in the House will increase the prison population and force the state to build a new penitentiary.

landis-larry-mug Landis

Drug dealing

During the summer, the Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee carefully examined the sentencing structure in HEA 1006-2013. The Indiana Department of Correction was concerned the new criminal code would actually put more offenders behind bars, causing significant overcrowding in state’s prisons.

Steuerwald said the adjustments made in the House to sentencing represent a compromise. The advisory sentences for the crime of dealing narcotics were raised. At the same time, the sentences for these offenses remained suspendable.

In addition, the House increased the credit time for the lowest-level offenders. HB 1006 called for inmates to receive one day of credit for every three days they serve. The modification will allow these offenders to get one day of credit for every day they serve.

“Doing that will have a pretty dramatic effect of lowering the population in the DOC,” Steuerwald said.

Landis disagreed. He said the amendments made in the House were not recommended by the study committee and will only put more people in prison for longer periods of time. The current form of the bill, he said, will increase the number incarcerated to the point where the state will have to spend millions building a new prison or will get slapped with a federal court order to correct the overcrowding.

The advisory sentences for individuals charged with dealing opiates now range from a low of 3 years to a high of 10 years. Also, for the highest level of drug dealing offense, the amount the individual had to be caught with was dropped from more than 28 grams to more than 10 grams.

Young said he is contemplating offering an amendment to HB 1006 that would allow the state to begin tacking. Under this provision, every time a drug dealer is arrested, the amount they are carrying is tacked on to any amounts they were carrying when they were arrested previous times.


Arresting and incarcerating drug dealers does not do anything to reduce demand for the narcotics, Powell said. The demand problem should be addressed by enrolling addicts into special programs to help them overcome their dependency on drugs and to deal with the mental health issues many of them struggle against.

Powell and Landis agreed that programs that provide treatment, monitoring and supervision can reduce recidivism and lower the crime rate.

Steuerwald’s bill, HB 1268, requires treatment programs to use evidence-based practices and establishes a grant structure for the DOC to use when awarding money to local communities. It requires the Department of Correction to consult with the Indiana Judicial Conference and the Division of Mental Health and Addiction before giving out the grants.

In the Senate, Young has introduced Senate Bill 235 that would start a mental health pilot project in Marion County. The measure mirrors Steuerwald’s bill in that it requires the use of best practices for the treatment programs and establishes the criteria for the DOC to award grants.

Also, both pieces of legislation create the mental health and addiction forensic treatment services account to fund the treatment programs. Money in the account would come from appropriations from the Indiana General Assembly, grants and gifts or bequests.

Henry Circuit Judge Mary Willis said the Indiana Judges Association wants to see funding provided for the local programs. With more low-level criminals staying in their communities, the municipalities will need more money to provide for the additional probation officers and community corrections officials who will be needed for supervising the offenders.

To ensure the communities can handle more offenders, Landis is advocating for the treatment programs to be set up and running before the sentences are increased.

Steuerwald, Young and Willis do not want to delay the implementation of HB 1006 from the target date of July 1. The legislators pointed out their bills, if passed, can be immediately implemented and the programs can be started before any individuals are sentenced under the new criminal code.

Willis said tweaks and adjustments can be made as needed once the legislation takes effect.

“This is so big that there’s going to have to be an opportunity to put it into place and see how it operates,” she said.•


  • Wisdom of the Judge
    Thank you Henry Circuit Judge Mary Willis for your honorable leadership and integrity. And thank you for stepping forward and speaking out. The canned sentencing that was fashioned by intolerance did not allow for wise decisions on behalf of thousands of offenders who were handed down lengthy sentences. Revisiting those cases where gross injustice was inflicted will be a feather in the cap of Indiana. Many of them sentenced to lengthy terms have just been heartbroken and long ago rehabilitated while still sitting in their cells today looking hopefully to July 1, 2014. Let's not let these folks down. Have Swift Mercy Indiana. These are not bad people, most of them just made some bad choices that they regret dearly. Thank you all for HB 1006
  • Wisdom of the Judge
    Thank you Henry Circuit Judge Mary Willis for your honorable leadership and integrity. And thank you for stepping forward and speaking out. The canned sentencing that was fashioned by intolerance did not allow for wise decisions on behalf of thousands of offenders who were handed down lengthy sentences. Revisiting those cases where gross injustice was inflicted will be a feather in the cap of Indiana. Many of them sentenced to lengthy terms have just been heartbroken and long ago rehabilitated while still sitting in their cells today looking hopefully to July 1, 2014. Let's not let these folks down. Have Swift Mercy Indiana. These are not bad people, most of them just made some bad choices that they regret dearly. Thank you all for HB 1006

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  1. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  2. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  3. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  4. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

  5. Brian W, I fear I have not been sufficiently entertaining to bring you back. Here is a real laugh track that just might do it. When one is grabbed by the scruff of his worldview and made to choose between his Confession and his profession ... it is a not a hard choice, given the Confession affects eternity. But then comes the hardship in this world. Imagine how often I hear taunts like yours ... "what, you could not even pass character and fitness after they let you sit and pass their bar exam ... dude, there must really be something wrong with you!" Even one of the Bishop's foremost courtiers said that, when explaining why the RCC refused to stand with me. You want entertaining? How about watching your personal economy crash while you have a wife and five kids to clothe and feed. And you can't because you cannot work, because those demanding you cast off your Confession to be allowed into "their" profession have all the control. And you know that they are wrong, dead wrong, and that even the professional code itself allows your Faithful stand, to wit: "A lawyer may refuse to comply with an obligation imposed by law upon a good faith belief that no valid obligation exists. The provisions of Rule 1.2(d) concerning a good faith challenge to the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law apply to challenges of legal regulation of the practice of law." YET YOU ARE A NONPERSON before the BLE, and will not be heard on your rights or their duties to the law -- you are under tyranny, not law. And so they win in this world, you lose, and you lose even your belief in the rule of law, and demoralization joins poverty, and very troubling thoughts impeaching self worth rush in to fill the void where your career once lived. Thoughts you did not think possible. You find yourself a failure ... in your profession, in your support of your family, in the mirror. And there is little to keep hope alive, because tyranny rules so firmly and none, not the church, not the NGO's, none truly give a damn. Not even a new court, who pay such lip service to justice and ancient role models. You want entertainment? Well if you are on the side of the courtiers running the system that has crushed me, as I suspect you are, then Orwell must be a real riot: "There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." I never thought they would win, I always thought that at the end of the day the rule of law would prevail. Yes, the rule of man's law. Instead power prevailed, so many rules broken by the system to break me. It took years, but, finally, the end that Dr Bowman predicted is upon me, the end that she advised the BLE to take to break me. Ironically, that is the one thing in her far left of center report that the BLE (after stamping, in red ink, on Jan 22) is uninterested in, as that the BLE and ADA office that used the federal statute as a sword now refuses to even dialogue on her dire prediction as to my fate. "C'est la vie" Entertaining enough for you, status quo defender?