Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 16, 2013

Letters to the editor - Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013

Rewriting outdated state criminal code

Rewriting Indiana’s criminal code is an issue that my colleagues and I have spent years analyzing. The code has been enhanced in the past, but there has not been a significant overhaul since 1977. I believe that the time has come to change that and provide Hoosiers with an appropriate, updated criminal code.

In 2009, the Criminal Code Evaluation Commission (CCEC) was created and charged with the task of “evaluating the criminal laws of Indiana.” I was a member of this commission, which was composed of elected officials and a number of experts in the criminal justice field. From March 2011 to July 2012, the CCEC met more than 43 times to discuss the merits of the criminal code and possible revisions.

The guiding principles that the commission tried to achieve in rewriting Indiana’s criminal code included the following: consistency, proportionality, like-sentences for like-crimes, new criminal penalties and sentencing schemes designed to keep dangerous offenders in prison, but avoid using scarce prison space for non-violent offenders.

Before I was a lawyer, I served two years as a certified probation officer with the Indiana Department of Correction. During my time in that position, and in my current position, I witnessed the need to restructure our current system. One of the biggest issues facing our judicial system is the correct sentencing policies, which is causing violent offenders to be released early.

With 28,378 inmates housed in the Indiana Department of Correction, an estimated 15,000 are being held solely on Class D felonies. The cost per day to house an inmate is $56.88. The proposed criminal code revisions, as recommended by the commission, will create a way for the state to cut state prison costs, while providing a sentence grid that applies a more specific sentence to criminal offenses.

There are four classes of felonies in our current criminal code (Classes A-D). The changes the CCEC recommended would expand the four classes to six by dividing Class A and Class B into two parts. Murder will be its own separate classification. As proposed all criminal defendants sentenced to the Department of Correction will serve 75 percent of their sentence as opposed to 50 percent served under the current criminal code. The recommendations from the commission to the General Assembly will become effective July 2014.

As we move forward this session, it is imperative that the issue of rewriting Indiana’s criminal code remain a priority. These changes will make Indiana’s laws work for Hoosiers, creating a safer and more responsible state.

Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon

What has become of our secular gov’t?

I am deeply disappointed that an Indiana state senator, Dennis Kruse, believes it is perfectly fine to use the force and power of government to convert the children of non-believers to his religion. His plan would have schools have children recite the Lord’s Prayer unless their parents explicitly say no.

That is unbelievable. This isn’t a theocracy, and Kruse and others cannot and should not use the power of the government to convert others to their religion. What is he afraid of exactly? Why can’t he compete in the marketplace of ideas? Would he want a school requiring children to recite Islam’s Quran? Of course not.

I noticed that earlier, Sen. Kruse pushed creationism in public schools, with the obvious intention of just getting children to believe his own religious beliefs. Where has the secular, Enlightenment-based republic that Madison, Jefferson and Paine gave us gone to?

By the way, a question has been raised by some: Should our secular, Enlightenment-based republic have a president give an oath on a Bible next week?

No, he shouldn’t. We aren’t a theocractic form of government, in any way.

President Obama, please take the oath on the Constitution, which you are to defend, not the Bible.

Jerome McCollom, Kokomo

What are we teaching kids about violence?

Think about this:

I was in a doctor’s office in Kokomo last week. A grandmother was watching her grandson while his mother was with the doctor. I would guess the child was at least 3 years old but no more than 4.

He was playing with a noisy, hand-held game when I heard the grandmother say: “No, you can’t kill that one yet. You have to kill this other guy first.”

Enough said?

Ellen Harvey, Peru