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Gov. Pence Says Criminal Code Overhaul Not Strict Enough

Rockville fence

Photo: Gretchen Frazee/WFIU-WTIU News

The fence at the Rockville Correctional Facility.

Governor Mike Pence says he is concerned a legislative effort to overhaul the state’s criminal code is not tough enough on low-level drug offenders.

The bill that rewrites Indiana’s criminal code toughens penalties for the state’s worst offenders while focusing more on rehabilitation for first-time, non-violent offenders, notably those charged with low-level drug possession and distribution charges.

Governor Mike Pence says the legislation should be about reducing crime, not reducing penalties.

“I think this legislation, as it moves forward, should seek to continue to send a very strong message to the people of Indiana and particularly to those who would come into our state to deal drugs that we are tough and we’re going to stay tough,” he says.

But proponents of the bill say Indiana’s current system essentially warehouses low-level offenders without dealing with core problems like addiction.  Pence says his administration wants to address recidivism, even if he does not agree with the entire overhaul bill.

“I’m very open to new and innovative approaches that take those young people that have made a poor choice and, whether it’s in community corrections or whether it’s in the Department of Corrections, that we give them opportunities to turn their life around and really get a fresh start and a second chance,” he says.

The criminal code revision bill has already passed the House and is scheduled for a Senate committee hearing next week.

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