Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

News

March 27, 2013

DOC says criminal code bill will spike prison numbers

Greensburg — A week after Gov. Mike Pence caught lawmakers by surprise with his opposition to a major criminal code reform bill, the state Department of Correction is projecting the bill will blow up the state’s prison population far beyond what the legislature’s non-partisan research agency says it will.

The DOC’s projections, which say the state’s prison population could grow by 70 percent in 20 years if the bill becomes law, caught supporters of the bill by surprise during a committee hearing on the legislation Tuesday.

Republican State Sen. Brent Steele of Bedford, a key sponsor of House Bill 1006, sharply questioned the validity of the DOC numbers both during the hearing and afterwards, when he likened the projections to “ninja smoke.”

House Bill 1006 rewrites the criminal code to lessen penalties for low-level drug offenders and toughen punishment for the worst sex and violent offenders. Backers of the bill have long argued that it would slow down the rise in Indiana’s prison population.

The DOC projections, released by DOC deputy commissioner Randy Koester during Tuesday’s hearing, conflict with a Legislative Services Agency analysis which says the bill would lead to a small increase in prison population before dropping off.

While the LSA analysis predicts the prison population would top off at about 30,000 (up from the current 28,000) within a few years if the bill is passed, the DOC projects that the bill would explode the prison population to almost 48,000 by 2023.

When Steele pushed Koester for the information used to make the projections, including the average length of sentence served by offenders by felony level, Koester said he didn’t have the information with him.

After the committee hearing, Steele said he questioned DOC’s ability to project the prison population that far into the future. He said anyone who believes they can make that kind of projection “believe(s) in ninja smoke” (a reference, Steele explained, to the magical smoke used by ninja warriors to distract onlookers as the ninja disappears).

Steele and the bill’s House author, Republican state Rep. Greg Steuerwald of Avon, are committed to pushing ahead with the bill. It’s already passed the Republican-controlled House and has strong support from Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma, who’s been at odds with Pence over the governor’s proposed income-tax-rate cut.

But the bill is also likely to undergo changes as it moves through the Senate. Steele said the bill may be amended to raise the penalties for marijuana crimes, which had been reduced from felonies to misdemeanor charges in the current bill.

Last week, Pence surprised legislators when he announced his opposition to the bill during a press conference with TV and radio reporters. Steele had been told of the governor’s opposition earlier that day, but Steuerwald and the two Democrat authors of the bill had not.

Pence told reporters he was unhappy with the bill’s provisions that would decrease penalties for entry-level drug offenses. “I think we need to work on reducing crime, not reducing penalties,” Pence said during the press conference.

The bill’s backers argue that’s what the bill does, by diverting low-level offenders into local treatment and corrections programs aimed at reducing recidivism, while keeping the worst offenders behind bars.

“It’s not soft on crime, by any means,” Steuerwald said.

 

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

1
Text Only
News
  • No confirmation of Philly papal visit PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Whether Pope Francis will visit Philadelphia during a major gathering of the world’s Roman Catholics remained a matter of speculation Friday after the archdiocese said a report he would attend should not be considered confirmation

    July 26, 2014

  • Islamic State destroys Jonah's Tomb in Mosul BAGHDAD (AP) — As Iraq selected a new president, Islamic militants blew up a revered Muslim shrine in Mosul traditionally said to be the burial place of the Prophet Jonah, several residents of the city told The Associated Press.The militants first or

    July 26, 2014

  • Police search Gary for tiger on the loose GARY, Ind. (AP) — Gary police searched the northwest Indiana city for a tiger after receiving several reports of a big cat on the loose.The reports began shortly before midnight Thursday and alleged sightings continued into Friday morning. Officers i

    July 26, 2014

  • Indy pulls support for Amtrak line INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indianapolis city officials have decided not to provide any additional money to subsidize an Amtrak passenger line between Indianapolis and Chicago, casting its future into question.Last year, city leaders signed onto a one-year f

    July 26, 2014

  • Decatur County Events Calendar Local clubs, service groups, fraternal organizations and others are encouraged to send their Coming Events information to the Daily News at news@greensburgdailynews.com or Daily News, PO Box 106, Greensburg, IN 47240. All July – International Crafts

    July 26, 2014

  • nws-gb072614-gecom internship 1 photo Internship connects Greensburg students with Gecom jobs GREENSBURG — When Greensburg resident Zachary Couch, 20, was growing up, he enjoyed tinkering with machines, especially cars, and hoped to turn his interest into a career. Now, just a couple of months out of high school, he is working full-time, maki

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • nws-gb072614-ymca 100 birthday pic Decatur County YMCA celebrating 100 years tonight GREENSBURG — By 7 p.m. tonight, the “mocktails” will be flowing.That’s when the Decatur County Family YMCA will hold Celebration 100, the third of its summer-long festivities to celebrate the 100th Birthday of this venerable Tree City institution.In

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Educators offer paths to student success GREENSBURG — What started as an internship program between the local high school and auto parts maker Gecom has evolved into a harbinger of closer cooperation among leaders in education and business.Started last August as as a pilot project with six

    July 26, 2014

  • Visa, Amazon pull stock market lower NEW YORK (AP) — Disappointing news on the American consumer, reflected in the results of retail giant Amazon and credit card processor Visa, dragged down the stock market Friday, putting two major indexes on course for a weekly loss.KEEPING SCORE: Th

    July 26, 2014

  • Thinking about health Tracy Hume, a freelance writer who lives in Greeley, Co., and a reader of Thinking About Health columns, recently sent along this provocative question. “Do ER-affiliated urgent care providers ever try to escalate patients to the ER when it is not med

    July 26, 2014