The five-year long process of overhauling Indiana’s criminal code is nearly at an end as lawmakers prepare to pass legislation following up on last year’s reform bill.
Its proponents say work on the issue can’t stop.
The purpose of the criminal code overhaul is to bring balance back to the code – toughening penalties for the worst criminals while helping low level, non-violent offenders stay out of prison, moving them towards community corrections programs.
That’s done in part to help reduce the state’s prison population as lawmakers try to avoid needing to build a new prison.
Dearborn and Ohio County Prosecutor Aaron Negangard is the chairman of the Prosecuting Attorneys Council’s legislative committee. He says that goal can only be accomplished by helping ensure offenders don’t return to prison after their release.
“It doesn’t matter what our criminal code is if recidivism is not addressed. There’s been some money appropriated towards that effort but we’ll need more resources to focus on recidivism efforts,” Negangard says.
This session’s follow-up bill increased some of the drug crime penalties that were lowered in last year’s bill, though the penalties are still lower than current law.
Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, says it’s hard to say whether the overhaul is still a good product.
“The only way it’s going to work is if the money goes into this bill the way it needs to be put into this bill because, right now, we don’t have community corrections in all of our counties,” she says. “We don’t have the kind of drug rehab that we need.”
Lawson says she expects those funding efforts to be a major focus when the legislature writes a new budget next year.