Monday, January 21, 2013
Ind. Law - More on "Criminal code re-write would restore ‘fairness and proportionality’"
Updating this ILB entry from January 17th, here are three items on the bill, all published January 20th:
- An editorial in the Evansville Courier & Press that begins:
Two years after state prosecutors shot down a promising legislative proposal to reduce the number of low-level criminals taking up room in state prisons, a new proposal is on the table, one that this time has the support of the state prosecutors organization.
Given that lawmakers are unlikely to pass such a bill without the support of the prosecutors, who two years ago accused legislators who supported sentencing reform as being soft on crime, this may be the best shot that reformers are going to get. It is at least worth pursuing, and this past week it was passed 13-0 by the Indiana House Courts and Criminal Committee.
- This story by CNHI's Maureen Hayden is headed " Criminal code reform could shift more costs to counties: Reform bill’s author vows to find money for local corrections if they’re left with more inmates." It begins:
INDIANAPOLIS — One the roadblocks to major legislation that rewrites the Indiana criminal code to make punishment better fit the crime is the lack of dollars to implement it on the local level.A second story Sunday by reporter Hayden, this one published in the Mt. Vernon Register-News, is headed "Another Daniels may get state’s criminal code on track." It begins:
If passed by the General Assembly, the legislation would likely reserve the state prisons for the worst offenders, while sending more low-level offenders and drug abusers into county jails, community-based corrections and probation rolls.
Legislators who back the bill say the goal is to get those drug addicts and low-level offenders into programs that offer treatment and intensive supervision that reduce the odds they’ll commit another crime.
But they concede the legislation has yet to include a funding mechanism for much of the extra costs that local communities would have to absorb.
“This doesn’t work unless there’s money to pay for it,” said Rep. Matt Pierce, a Democrat from Bloomington who worked with Republicans to help craft the legislation that rewrites the criminal code.
The Indiana Sheriff’s Association supports the legislation but with a caveat: It needs to come with funding for cash-strapped counties that can’t pick up the extra costs of housing more inmates and providing the treatment and services aimed at reducing recidivism.
“What we’re worried about is getting caught in an unfunded mandate,” said Stephen Luce, executive director of the association. “Most counties can’t absorb the extra costs.”
The financial impact of the legislation on local and state government has yet to be fully calculated. Lawmakers are awaiting an updated fiscal statement from the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency.
One of the bill’s key authors, Republican state Rep. Greg Steuerwald of Avon, has vowed to get local communities the resources they need, if the bill passes.
Two years ago, Gov. Mitch Daniels set out to reform prison sentencing in Indiana, convinced that the state’s spiraling prison costs were eventually going to squeeze out other budget priorities, including education.
For a long list of reasons — including significant resistance from prosecutors around the state — he couldn’t get it done.
But now, his sister might.
Deborah Daniels is a former prosecutor who served as a U.S. assistant attorney general in President George W. Bush administration’s before returning to Indiana to practice law.
In early 2011, she played a supportive role in crafting the legislative proposal that her brother championed as a solution to the state’s rising prison costs.
That proposal was built on a set of reforms governing sentencing and parole. The details are complex but goal straightforward:
Make punishment more proportional to the crime, reserve prison for the most serious offenders, and get the drug addicts and low-level offenders out from behind prison bars and into treatment and supervision programs to reduce recidivism.
It was such an ambitious proposal that it’s not surprising that it didn’t gain the traction needed to pass through the Indiana General Assembly in 2011. Many thought sentencing reform had just died.
But Deborah Daniels helped revive it.
In the summer of 2011, the legislative-appointed Criminal Code Evaluation Commission asked her to head up a “work group” of attorneys who took an intensive look at Indiana’s criminal laws.
That work group included Andrew Cullen of the Indiana Public Defender Council and Suzanne O’Malley of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council — representing two strong and often opposing points of view — as well as a former Marion County drug prosecutor and a small army of law school interns.
Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 21, 2013 10:47 AM
Posted to Indiana Law