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Senate Receives Criminal Code Overhaul Bill

Prisoners at the Branchville Correctional Facility walk in the prison's courtyard.

Legislators involved in a comprehensive overhaul of Indiana’s criminal code say balance is key to its success as the measure heads to the Senate.

A complete rewrite of the state’s criminal code has involved representatives from nearly every sector of the criminal justice system, including prosecutors, public defenders, law enforcement, judges and legislators. It creates harsher penalties for the worst offenders while lessening prison time for some non-violent crimes and putting a greater emphasis on rehabilitation. The bill overwhelmingly passed the House and now faces the Indiana Senate.

Bloomington Democratic Representative Matt Pierce, one of the measure’s sponsors, says keeping the bill relatively unchanged is vital.

“If people see it as an opportunity to turn into a Christmas tree and add in all their kind of pet criminal law issues onto the bill, it will collapse,” he says.

Bedford Republican Brent Steele, who will sponsor the bill in the Senate, says he will urge any groups or members who want to change the bill to wait until the summer.

“This is 90 percent of the bill and it won’t become effective until another year so we’ve got another year to tweak it,” he says. “But it’s so important that we get at least this structure through. This is the skeleton.”

Steele and Pierce say, with an effective date of 2014, there will be what is called a trailer bill next session to address any problems discovered in the law if it passes.

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