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Monday, November 05, 2012

Ind. Gov't. - Updates on status of Criminal Law and Sentencing Committee and Criminal Code Evaluation Commission

Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee

On Oct. 25 the ILB wrote:

Today the Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee met and agreed upon a draft of a bill to revise the Indiana Sex Offender statute. A copy of that draft is not yet posted on the study committee's website.
A check of the website today shows no draft has been added. Neither the draft nor the revisions to it made during the Oct. 25th Committee meeting appear to be available.

In addition, the Committee met 5 times this fall, but only the minutes of the first meeting are available. On the good side, it appears that videocasts of all 5 meetings have been posted (although I haven't tried the links yet). The Committee has no final report.

Criminal Code Evaluation Commission

This Commission met a number of times this fall, its minutes and a review/report are available. Preliminary Draft 3425, discussed at the final meeting, is not online. Videocasts of four of its meetings, but not the final meeting, appear to be available.

Maureen Hayden of CNHI reported Nov. 1. Some quotes:

The effort to overhaul major portions of Indiana’s criminal code to make punishment more proportionate to the crime moved another step forward Wednesday.

The state’s Criminal Code Evaluation Commission approved much of a 382-page draft of proposed legislation that contains sweeping changes to the code, including more levels of felonies, lower penalties for some drug and theft crimes and potentially more prison time for the worst sex and violent offenders.

The 16-member commission, which is made up lawmakers, judges, and representatives from the state’s prosecutors, public defenders, and state prisons, failed to reach agreement on some key areas. Among them: the sentencing ranges for the six new felony levels that the commission thinks should replace the current four felony levels.

The commission also pulled back some language that dealt with the credit time that offenders can earn toward early release while in prison, and also pulled some of the proposed changes on how habitual offenders are sentenced. Those issues will have to be left for legislators to hammer out in the next legislative session, which begins in January.

But the commission pushed forward on some other critical areas: recommending that Indiana do away with its punitive “drug-free” zones that ratchet up prison terms and reducing a low-level theft from a felony to a misdemeanor. * * *

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. * * *

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.

From a Nov. 3rd WTHR 13 story:
INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana lawmakers say they are moving forward with plans that would keep convicted criminals behind bars longer.

That comes after 13 Investigates revealed concerns that thousands of violent criminals have been released too soon from prisons.

Indiana's Criminal Code is what determines how much time a convicted criminal will spend behind bars. It's been 35 years since that code has had a major overhaul it appears that is about to change.

Every year, thousands of convicted criminals are set free after serving just a fraction of their sentence. 13 Investigates showed inmates have been able to stack good time credits with education credits, vocational credits, rehabilitation credits, and other credits to slash years - even decades - off their sentences.

Many of the lawmakers, judges and attorneys that make up the state's criminal code evaluation commission say it's time to change that. This week, they finished a major review of the Criminal Code and the result is a proposed bill that's nearly 400 pages long.

Following our investigation, the commission is recommending cutting the amount of credit time inmates can earn. Program credits and education credits could be combined for up to two years off an inmate's sentence instead of the current four years.

Some members of the commission also want the Department of Correction to take a harder stand on good time credit. 13 Investigates showed how violent criminals who commit more offenses behind bars still get their good time credit anyway.

Those restrictions are not currently included in the proposed bill, but lawmakers say they will be once the bill is introduced to the full legislature.

"I believe the committee, and most people believe, if you misbehave and lost your good time credit, it should be lost," said Rep. Greg Steuerwald (R-Danville).

The Department of Correction does not agree with all the changes. The department says letting inmates out early saves a lot of money and requiring inmates to serve more of their sentences will cost taxpayers millions of dollars and could force the state to build more prisons.

Lawmakers will continue to meet with the DOC and with prosecutors and public defenders to craft the final bill that will be introduced in January.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 5, 2012 10:26 AM
Posted to Indiana Government