Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

January 20, 2013

Criminal code reform could shift costs to counties

Lawmaker vows to get communities money if bill passes.

Indianapolis — One of the roadblocks to major legislation that rewrites the Indiana criminal code to make punishment better fit the crime is the lack of dollars to implement it on the local level.

If passed by the General Assembly, the legislation would likely reserve the state prisons for the worst offenders, while sending more low-level offenders and drug abusers into county jails, community-based corrections, and probation rolls.

Legislators who back the bill say the goal is to get those drug addicts and low-level offenders into programs that offer treatment and intensive supervision that reduce the odds they’ll commit another crime.

But they concede the legislation has yet to include a funding mechanism for much of the extra costs local communities would have to absorb.

“This doesn’t work unless there’s money to pay for it,” said Rep. Matt Pierce, a Democrat from Bloomington who worked with Republicans to help craft the legislation that rewrites the criminal code.

The Indiana Sheriffs Association supports the legislation but with a caveat: It needs to come with funding for cash-strapped counties that can’t pick up the extra costs of housing more inmates and providing the treatment and services aimed at reducing recidivism.

“What we’re worried about is getting caught in an unfunded mandate,” said association president Stephen Luce. “Most counties can’t absorb the extra costs.”

The financial impact of the legislation on local and state government has yet to be fully calculated. Lawmakers are awaiting an updated fiscal statement from the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency.

One of the bill’s key authors, Republican state Rep. Greg Steuerwald of Avon, has vowed to get local communities the resources they need if the bill passes.

Andrew Berger, government affairs director for the Association of Indiana Counties, is also keeping a watchful eye on the legislation.

“Our members agree with the goal of the legislation,” Berger said. “But it’s going to mean more offenders sent into programs that counties are going to have to find a way to pay for.”

The legislation does include $1.9 million to reimburse counties for the cost of paying the salaries of their chief and deputy chief probation officers, which could free up some money to pay for what’s expected to be an expanded caseload for county probation departments.

But as yet, there are no additional funds for treatment programs in the bill.

Some lawmakers point out the state could shift more prison dollars into local community corrections programs that are funded by the Indiana Department of Correction. But there are rural counties in Indiana that don’t have any community corrections programs, and others that have minimal programs.

User fees, paid by offenders to offset the cost of community-based treatment programs, are common in many counties. But for offenders who are indigent, counties have to pick up the costs.

Luce is a believer in the legislation’s goal. He’s a former Knox County sheriff who started a treatment program for methamphetamine addicts housed in his jail, after he’d seen so many of them return.

In addition to counseling in jail, inmates got help from community volunteers finding jobs and other support once they got out. Private dollars and a state grant got the program going.

“You can make jail a positive experience for people if you provide the right kind of programs,” Luce said. “But it takes money to provide those programs.”

The legislation that rewrites the criminal code was spurred by a failed attempt at sentencing reform in 2010. That earlier effort came after a study showed Indiana’s prison count had grown by 41 percent between 2000 and 2009 — an increase three times that of neighboring states.

The study also found the increase had been caused not by violent criminals but by drug addicts and by low-level, nonviolent criminals. The study found Indiana was punishing both groups much more severely than neighboring states.

The current legislation, House Bill 1006, which received its first hearing last week, raises the penalties for the worst offenders, while reducing punishment for the lowest level offenders, including people convicted of possessing or selling small amounts of drugs.

It requires felons to serve 75 percent of their sentences instead of receiving the current day-for-day good behavior credit, which often cuts sentences in half.

Low-level felons would be less likely to go to prison. The legislation gives judges more discretion in sentencing and eliminates some of the mandatory prison sentences that are currently in law.

Those low-level felons would likely serve their time in county jails or under intensive supervision in a community corrections program, or be put on probation.

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for CNHI newspapers in Indiana, including the Kokomo Tribune. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • Mac talent show 01 lf Maconaquah students, alumni take the stage for 50th annual variety show BUNKER HILL - When students from Bunker Hill and Clay Township schools suddenly found themselves walking the same halls in the new Maconaquah High School, they needed something to rally around as they formed their new school identity. That's when Pow

    April 17, 2014 3 Photos

  • NWS - KT041714 - Bunker Hill child neglect arrests - CLG - pic1 Miami Co. couple face charges of neglect after children found malnourished BUNKER HILL - Two Bunker Hill children have been placed in foster care after officials discovered they were living in a dilapidated house with no heat or running water and were exposed to dangerous amounts of lead. In relation to the case, police Mon

    April 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • Maconaquah School Corp. to add new preschool program PERU -- In an effort to meet the needs of Miami County's young children, Maconaquah School Corp. is set to expand its preschool programs next school year. The school district is starting a "Little Braves Academy" preschool program, in addition to its

    April 17, 2014

  • $3.27M grant will boost technical training at Ivy Tech Kokomo Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo Region just received a $3.27 million boost from the federal government to expand programs dedicated to preparing high school students for careers in industrial technology. Ivy Tech's Integrated Technology Education P

    April 17, 2014

  • NWS KT 041714 pic traveling diplomat Kokomo senior Craig Simon to be traveling diplomat The chance to travel the globe, earn college credits and get paid sounds too good to be true, but it's about to be reality for Kokomo High School senior Craig Simon. The Kokomo School Corp. board of education approved a recommendation Monday to make

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Plea deal filed in Kokomo murder-for-hire plot A Kokomo woman accused of plotting to kill her daughter's boyfriend pleaded guilty to a lesser charge Tuesday as part of a proposed plea deal. Police arrested Christy Shaffer, 41, in September on a conspiracy to commit murder charge after she alleged

    April 17, 2014

  • Tabitha Mitkus Heroin found in hotel room bust Kokomo police seized heroin, pills, cocaine and stolen property in an early morning, motel room bust. Tabitha B. Mitkus, 24, 2000 block of Pontiac Court, was arrested at Garden Inn, 4021 S. Lafountain St., after hotel staff reported suspicious activi

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • North split restrictions on Monday The Indiana Department of Transportation will restrict traffic at the single-lane ramp that connects U.S. 31 to southbound Ind. 931 on the north side of Kokomo — weather permitting — on Monday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Remedial repairs along the 200-

    April 16, 2014

  • BK rebuild 04 Peru restaurant B-K West rebuilding after tornado

    PERU -- B-K West is more than just a drive-in restaurant to its owner, J.D. Hann. It's a piece of his childhood, a historic Peru landmark, and it's his baby. "I grew up with this place," the 57-year-old Peru native said. "We used to walk the tracks o

    April 16, 2014 7 Photos

  • Congresswoman Susan Brooks backs manufacturing training efforts Congresswoman Susan Brooks' own personal manufacturing experience may have been limited to three months in a Kendallville caramel factory as a college student, but in her congressional roles, she's having an impact on the skills debate. In Kokomo Tue

    April 16, 2014

Latest news
Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
Disbanding Muslim Surveillance Draws Praise Hundreds Missing After South Korean Ferry Sinks Passengers Abuzz After Plane Hits Swarm of Bees Boston Bomb Scare Defendant Appears in Court Pistorius Trial: Adjourned Until May 5 Diaz Gets Physical for New Comedy Raw: Ferry Sinks Off South Korean Coast Town, Victims Remember Texas Blast Freeze Leaves Florida Panhandle With Dead Trees At Boston Marathon, a Chance to Finally Finish Are School Dress Codes Too Strict? Raw: Fatal Ferry Boat Accident Suspicious Bags Found Near Marathon Finish Line Boston Marks the 1st Anniversary of Bombing NYPD Ends Muslim Surveillance Program 8-year-old Boy Gets His Wish: Fly Like Iron Man Sex Offenders Arrested in Slayings of CA Women India's Transgenders Celebrate Historic Ruling Tributes Mark Boston Bombing Anniversary Raw: Kan. Shooting Suspect Faces Judge
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Obituaries