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Legislature Passes Criminal Code Overhaul

The legislation aims to make sentences for the worst criminal offenses more severe while reducing the penalties for low-level crimes.

jail inmates

Photo: Bill Shaw/WFIU-WTIU News

Two inmates at the Monroe County Jail.

Indiana took a major step toward overhauling its criminal code Friday as the Senate approved a bill four years in the making.

The criminal code revision bill is the result of work by the Criminal Code Evaluation Commission, a group of lawmakers, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, and law enforcement who analyzed the state’s entire code, line-by-line.

The legislation aims to make sentences for the worst criminal offenses more severe while reducing the penalties for low-level crimes, particularly first-time drug offenses. Its authors say that will keep more people out of prison and instead focus on rehabilitation at the local level.

Representative Matt Pierce (D-Bloomington), one of those authors, says the bill is the scaffolding on which the state’s criminal justice system will be built.

“Most importantly, reduce crime overall but even more importantly, we’re going to salvage a lot of lives in the process and make more people into productive citizens rather than people that sap our resources,” he says.

The bill does not take effect until 2014, allowing the General Assembly to study it further this summer and revise it next session. That study will include the issue of local funding, as the focus shift of the bill will create a heavier burden on community corrections.

The measure now heads to the governor for his signature.

Brandon Smith, IPBS

Brandon Smith, IPBS has previously worked as a reporter and anchor for KBIA Radio in Columbia, MO, and at WSPY Radio in Plano, IL as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.

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