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Merritt Pushes Dramatic Increases To Gun, Drug Crime Penalties

Merritt announced his 2018 legislative agenda Tuesday.

Photo: Brandon Smith

Merritt announced his 2018 legislative agenda Tuesday.

A key Indiana state lawmaker wants to dramatically increase penalties for certain drug and gun crimes.

The General Assembly rewrote its criminal code in recent years. Its aim was to drive more nonviolent, mostly drug offenders out of the prison system and into local treatment programs. And part of that was by giving judges more discretion in sentencing – to be able to decide what’s best for an individual offender.

Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, wants to undo some of that.

“I think we’ve broken down at the court level in regards to serious, violent felons and we need to prop that and increase the penalties,” Merritt says. “And we need to re-adjust.”

Merritt will propose a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years for anyone who deals drugs that contain fentanyl, an opioid linked to a spike in overdose deaths. Merritt says he also wants to bar judges from reducing sentences for anyone who uses a gun in the commission of a crime.

“I’m empowering prosecutors and I think that’s what we need to do. Because it’s not working right now,” Merritt says.

Similar efforts have had mixed success since the legislature’s criminal code overhaul took effect three years ago.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

  • lastcamp2

    Increasing penalties is not the answer. It is just political showmanship.
    Maybe it is time to pay some attention to the underlying causes of bad behavior. Being punitive for its own sake is not effective. Even the Indiana Constitution recognizes that.
    “Section 18. The penal code shall be founded on the principles of
    reformation, and not of vindictive justice.”
    What is more vindictive that increasing penalties just for its own sake?

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