Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

Westside

November 30, 2012

Commission approves criminal code reforms

(Continued)

INDIANAPOLIS —

The 2010 sentencing reform effort was dashed in part by opposition from the state’s prosecutors, who were critical of proposed legislation that would have shifted more low-level offenders out of the state prisons and into county jails and community-based programs without much more resources.

In the draft of the proposed legislation approved by the commission Wednesday, there are provisions to provide more state dollars to local communities, including more money for community-based corrections and more money to counties for probation services.

State Rep. Matt Pierce, a Democrat from Bloomington and former commission chair, said even more dollars are going to be needed to make work a key piece of the proposed criminal code overhaul: the piece that would divert more low-level drug offenders into community-based treatment programs.

“I’m not interested in warehousing people in local jails rather than warehousing them in the DOC (Department of Correction),” Pierce said.

The only “nay” vote came from commission member David Powell, the executive director of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council.

Powell said county prosecutors agreed with much of the recommended changes to the state’s criminal code. But there were some sticking points: prosecutors opposed the penalty reductions for some of the drug and theft crimes.

The commission’s recommendations are noteworthy, as several members noted, because they were reached through a lengthy process, bipartisan agreement, and significant consensus among people who hold varying views on criminal justice.

But it’s also just the beginning: Now it has to be transformed into some massive legislation that both the state House and state Senate will approve and the next governor will sign.

Danville Republican State Rep. Greg Steuerwald, a commission member, is a likely sponsor of such legislation. “I think we can get this done in next session,” said Steuerwald. “There’s more support for it than ever before.”

— Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

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