Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

February 24, 2013

Criminal code rewrite unfunded locally

House moving forward with legislation.

Indianapolis — The Indiana House is moving forward on legislation that rewrites the state criminal code to make punishment better fit the crime, but a key ingredient is still missing: Money to implement it on the local level.

House Bill 1006 is designed to reserve state prisons for the worst offenders while sending more low-level offenders into county jails, community-based corrections and probation rolls.

The goal is to get those low-level offenders – many of whom are drug abusers – into programs that offer treatment and intensive supervision that reduce the odds they’ll commit another crime.

“We’re adding a ‘smart on crime’ element to our already ‘tough on crime’ elements we have in the code,” said state Rep. Matt Pierce, a Bloomington Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill. 

But the bill passed by the House Ways and Means Committee on Monday, on 20-0 vote, doesn’t include a funding mechanism for much of the extra costs that local communities would have to absorb.

A proposed $1.9 million “probation improvement fund” in the original bill has been removed from the legislation. There’s no money in the bill to expand the kind of community-based substance treatment programs that the bill’s supporters say is critical. And no extra dollars to help counties that have no community corrections program – an alternative to jail – create or staff one.

The legislation would bring sweeping changes to Indiana’s criminal code. Among other things, it reduces Indiana’s tough drug penalties. No longer would someone caught with cocaine near a school face a tougher sentence than a rapist. And no longer would someone caught with marijuana automatically lose their driver’s license or face a felony charge if found with more than one ounce of pot. 

It would also divert thousands of low-level offenders, most charged with drug and theft crimes, out of the state prisons and back into local communities for treatment, supervision or incarceration.

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