Indiana House to Review Overhaul of Criminal Sentencing Code

 Beginning today, the Indiana House will be taking a look at rewriting the decades-old criminal sentencing code.

The Criminal Code Evaluation Committee has agreed that the main overhaul of the code focuses on consistency, proportionality, like-sentences for like-crimes, new criminal penalties and sentencing schemes designed to keep dangerous offenders in prison, but avoid using prison space for non-violent offenders.

As a way to keep non-violent offenders out of the Department of Corrections, judges can place those offenders on alternative incarceration – as in home detention or treatment programs. Starke Circuit Court Judge Kim Hall stated that the best part about this legislation is that the state will be rerouting resources to the county level and putting more money into Community Corrections.

“Starke County is eighth in the state of Indiana out of the 92 counties in sending people to prison on a per-capita basis,” said Judge Hall. “Among the many reasons for that is the fact that we don’t have too many sentencing alternatives. Other counties, let’s say Porter County, they have many sentencing alternatives. They send fewer people system than does Starke County even though they have a far greater population. So if the state will beef up our resources here in Starke County, then we can lower the number of people we send to prison and provide more treatment and counseling to people here who are considered to be non-violent, low level offenders.”
One of the aspects of the legislation is the classification of felonies. There are four classes of felonies now which range from the lower level Class D felony to the highest level Class A felony. The changes the committee has recommended would expand the four classes to six by dividing Class A and Class B into two parts. Murder would remain in its own separate classification.

Another proposal concerns credit time in prison which Judge Hall explains would change under certain circumstances with the recommended legislation.

“Under the current law, the Department of Corrections carries out the sentence of a judge and they have the authority to grant an inmate day-for-day credit. If a judge gives someone four years in prison, they could be out in two, at the discretion of the Department of Corrections. The legislature is considering restricting that, especially for violent offenders. Legislation would give one day of credit for every three days served which would mean that individuals, under certain crimes serving those sentences, would have to serve 75 percent.”

An estimated 28,378 inmates are housed in the Indiana Department of Corrections and approximately 15,000 are being held solely on the lowest felonies.

The overhaul of the code has the support of many prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges throughout the state.