Proposed changes would make convicted felons serve at least 75 percent of sentence

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The worst-of-the-worst criminal offenders will be facing more time while low-level offenders will be given intensive probation under the new sentencing provisions included in the rewrite of the Indiana Criminal Code.

Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Danville, is the author of House Bill 1006 which makes significant changes to the state’s criminal code. He and two co-authors on the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee - Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, and Linda Lawson, D-Hammond - outlined the proposed revisions at a press conference Wednesday morning.

The basis for the bill comes from the report submitted by the Criminal Code Evaluation Commission. Formed in 2009, the commission reviewed the code and offered recommendations for changes.

“The goal of the commission was to institute a new criminal code bill that instituted proportionality in the code and certainty in sentencing,” Steuerwald said.

Most significant, the 2009 evaluation commission divided the four felony classes into six levels plus a separate level for murder. In committee, Steuerwald said he and Pierce worked closely with prosecutors and public defenders to develop the sentencing ranges.

A key change is that credit for good behavior has been adjusted so offenders will be serving at least 75 percent of their sentences. Currently, one day of good behavior gives an inmate one day off his or her sentence. That is being increased to three days of good behavior will equal one day credit.

Also, the worst-of-the-worst – murders, child molesters and rapists –  are going to serve more time. Their sentences will be enhanced so they will serve at least 85 percent of their time.

For the middle range, the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee looked at making the sentences proportional to the crime, Pierce said. Low-level, nonviolent offenders would receive intensive probation that uses proven evidence-based best practices to address the root cause of the crime and reduce recidivism.

Instead of having these offenders cycle through the Indiana Department of Correction for three to six months, these low level felons would be put under intense supervision, like that provided by drug courts, and given help in solving the problems that are driving them to commit crimes.

“So we’re adding a smart-on-crime element to our already tough on crime element we have in the code,” Pierce said.

HB 1006 was passed unanimously through both the Courts and Criminal Code Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee. If the Legislature passes the bill, it will take effect July 1, 2014.



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