Column: A needed update for Indiana’s criminal codeApril 5, 2013
By REP. LLOYD ARNOLD
Of all the bills aiming to positively impact Indiana, the budget is arguably the most substantial, but House Bill 1006, a rewrite of Indiana’s criminal code, is a close second. HB 1006 has been in the works for over four years and will significantly update and modify the state’s criminal code with a focus to add proportionality and certainty to Indiana’s sentencing guidelines.
Indiana’s criminal code has been enhanced and tweaked in the past, but there has not been an extensive overhaul of the code since 1977. Both Republicans and Democrats have been supportive of HB 1006, in addition to prosecutors, public defenders and the chief justice of the Indiana Supreme Court. The Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee approved the bill by an 8 to 1 vote and passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee 13-0. The next step is passage before the entire Senate body.
In 2009, the Criminal Code Evaluation Commission) was created and tasked with “evaluating the criminal laws of Indiana.” The CCEC’s goal was to write a new criminal code for Indiana with these guidelines: consistency, proportionality, like-sentences for like-crimes, new criminal penalties and sentencing schemes designed to keep dangerous offenders in prison, but avoid using scarce prison space for non-violent offenders.
Currently, there are four classes of felonies in Indiana’s criminal code (Classes A-D). HB 1006 would expand those four classes to six by dividing Class A and Class B and making murder its own separate clarification. This change in sentencing will better fit the crime, assist local community corrections in dealing with non-violent offenders and keep violent and sexual offenders behind bars longer.
In looking at the amount of time served, HB 1006 will make sure that criminals serve 75 percent of their sentence instead of the 50 percent under our current criminal code; reduced sentences can be earned by “good-time credit” and earning a postsecondary degree, but all convicted individuals will be required to serve out 75 percent of the sentence. The victims of the crimes deserve to know that the defendant will serve the appropriate amount of time sentenced.
This legislation will help the state financially by being smart on crime and allowing Indiana to cut prison costs through a sentence grid that applies a more specific sentence to criminal offenses. There are 28,378 inmates currently being housed in the Indiana Department of Corrections with 15,000 of those being held on the lowest offenses.
By providing a different class level for these low level offenders, the state will save $56.88 per day on each inmate. Those low level offenders will enter intensive probation, where they will be heavily monitored and rehabilitated to address the issues that are causing them to commit crimes, such as drug addiction.
HB 1006 was authored by Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon, and coauthored with bipartisan support by Reps. Judd McMillin, R-Brookville, Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, and Linda Lawson, D-Hammond. All of the authors were members of the CCEC and have spent countless hours studying every aspect of this issue.
Updating our new criminal code will not only reduce prisons costs and correct sentencing policies, but most importantly, it will keep Hoosier communities safe.
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