Concerns over sentencing provisions and pleas for adequate funding dominated the Senate hearing on legislation overhauling the state’s criminal code.
Members of the Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law convened today to review House Bill 1006 and hear testimony from various proponents and opponents of the measure.
Committee Chair Sen. Mike Young recessed the hearing after two and a half hours. The committee will meet at 10 a.m. Thursday to review proposed amendments.
HB 1006 increases the penalties for offenders sentenced to prison but balances that against providing treatment and programs in the local communities for low-level criminals. This approach is promoted as a way to reduce recidivism and lower the cost of incarceration for the state.
Advocates for intensive probation over prison warned without a proper level of funding, the communities will not be able to offer the help these low-level offenders need and eventually these people will be pushed into the Indiana Department of Correction.
Don Travis, president of the Probation Officers’ Professional Association of Indiana, strongly encouraged the committee to provide the funding that communities need to implement alternative programs.
“If this bill goes into effect without the proper community resources,” he said, “it will not have the effect that’s anticipated.”
Steve Luce, executive director of the Indiana Sheriffs Association, also pushed for funding. He noted treatment programs do work with redirecting many inmates away from criminal activity. However, the key piece is funding dollars.
While Larry Landis, executive director of the Indiana Public Defender Council, applauded the bill’s sentencing proportionality, he said the measure fell short on reformation.
He pointed to the Indiana Constitution which calls for a penal code founded on reformation instead of vindictive justice. This bill, in its current form, he said, looks more toward retribution rather than rehabilitation.
He predicted the sentencing provisions, which call for inmates to serve at least 75 percent of their terms, will increase the state’s prison population. Also, echoing the previous speakers, he noted without proper funding to the communities, the offenders will not be monitored or supervised so they will likely violate their probations and end up in the Department of Correction which will make the current problem worse.
Landis proposed the sentencing language in the bill be rewritten to mirror the current sentencing standards. Then a summer study committee can review the data and develop a better sentencing structure.