[r63] Updating Indiana’s criminal code

Posted by: Zach Weismiller  | Friday, March 28, 2014

Whether it is major or minor, you can hardly turn on the news lately without seeing some mention of crime. While crime may be an inevitable part of the world we live in, it is important that we do everything we can to make Indiana a safer place for Hoosier families, and sometimes that means revaluating our criminal code. 

Before the 2013 legislative session, there had not been a comprehensive overview of our criminal code since 1977. Legislators began working on this effort years ago and have spent thousands of hours looking into our criminal code. Last year, we voted to change criminal penalties from four felony levels (A – D) to six felony levels (1 – 6), providing sentencing ranges and advisories for each level.

As part of our continued efforts to increase proportionality and certainty in sentencing as well as uniformity in criminal code, we made a variety of technical changes and updates to the court sentencing process again this session. House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1006 was the result of work put in by the Criminal Code Evaluation Committee, a sentencing policy study committee that has been researching and reviewing this issue since 2009. 

One important issue that HEA 1006 addresses is habitual offenders. Courts will now be required to sentence a person found to be a habitual offender to an additional fixed term of imprisonment that is between six to 20 years, for a person convicted of murder or a Level 1 through 4 felony, and two to six years for a person convicted of a Level 5 or 6 felony. This takes a tough stance on those who continue to commit the same crime regardless of its severity.  

HEA 1006 also enhances penalties one level for certain controlled substance offenses such as meth and Vicodin. For example, if a person commits an offense within 250 feet of school property, a public park, a family housing complex or a child care facility, their penalty would be greater than someone who commits this crime alone, in their home.  

In an effort to support county treatment programs and eliminate the need for additional prisons, it is important that we seek out innovative alternatives for incarceration that include a web-based, mobile friendly platform. For example, Corrisoft’s AIR program provides the ability to constantly monitor offenders on parole, probation or home detention. The cost per offender under this technology averages around $18 a day, while Indiana currently spends approximately $52.20 per inmate per day.  

As a result of this new law, the Department of Corrections (DOC) will estimate the amount of operational cost savings due to reductions in the number of individuals who are incarcerated. If there are any savings the DOC may, with the approval of the Budget Agency, make additional grants to counties for their community corrections programs and transfer funds to the Judicial Conference of Indiana to provide additional financial aid to court probation services. 

Finding the proper balance between punitive and rehabilitative justice is not a simple or easy process, but it is one that I believe we have given due diligence to. In the end, we had achieved the support of the Indiana Sheriffs Association, the DOC, the Indiana Drug Enforcement Agency and many others. While I believe these are some of the highlights of this new law, I confess that this only scratches the surface. If you would like to learn more about HEA 1006 and our efforts to keep Hoosiers safe, please visit our website at www.iga.in.gov.