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
  • 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. April 22 1 to 3 p.m. - Euchre at

    April 19, 2014

  • Hoosiers need to move over for workers GREENSBURG - Hoosiers need to slow down and move over to allow a cushion of space for vehicles stopped on the road's shoulder, particularly on the interstates. National Work Zone Awareness Week was last week and the 17th anniversary of Indiana State

    April 19, 2014

  • Lunch Menus April 21 – April 25 Good Shepherd Christian Academy Monday - Pizza, grape tomatoes, strawberries and cake, milk Tuesday - Spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread, salad, ice cream, milk Wednesday - Chicken nuggets, tater tots, green beans, casserole, applesauce, milk Thu

    April 19, 2014

  • Graduation rates high GREENSBURG -- Greensburg and South Decatur High schools had among the best graduation rates in the state last year. North Decatur High School ranked near the middle, but still above the state average. Greensburg reported a graduation rate of 99.3 per

    April 19, 2014

  • nws-gb041914-pig virus photo Pig virus taking toll GREENSBURG -- When Decatur County farmer Jeff Smiley ducked into the nursery barn, about two dozen piglets rushed into a corner of their pen, their pinkish hides bouncing into one another like a porcine version of bumper cars. The piglet's round nose

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • nws-gb041914-santee fire station - pic1 (please place on pg1) Clarksburg Vol. Fire Department breaks ground on Station 2 CLARKSBURG -- In 2012, members of the Clarksburg Volunteer Fire Department (CVFD) Board of Directors proposed building a new Firehouse to service the Lake Santee Community. CVFD Board President Wayne Geiss recalls that construction of a separate Fire

    April 19, 2014 3 Photos

  • A pedicure that cured all my pet peeves Since I was a young person, I always had some pets around. Most of these have been dogs, hunting dogs in particular. And I loved my pets. In getting older, I discovered that having a pet dog around is a lot of work. More work than I care to do in lig

    April 19, 2014

  • Church Briefs Liberty Baptist Church Sunday, April 20 - Resurrection Sunday Liberty Baptist Church will have Sunrise Service at 7 a.m. in the Sanctuary, with the women doing the program. Following the Sunrise service the men of the congregation will serve Easter B

    April 19, 2014

  • Cards RHP Kelly on DL WASHINGTON -- St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Joe Kelly has been put on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring. The Cardinals also optioned righty reliever Keith Butler to Triple-A Memphis and recalled rookie right-handers Eric Forn

    April 18, 2014

  • nws-gb041814-ymca flat rock - pic2 Local retreat mostly unknown around Decatur County ST. PAUL -- Out in the northwest corner of Decatur County lies a place that's largely unknown within the county itself. Oddly enough, this hideaway of natural splendor is anything but secret to the rest of the world. From Spain and Hong Kong they com

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos