(STATEHOUSE) - The first comprehensive reform of Indiana's felony laws in more than 35 years passed the Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law today by a 8-1 vote.
Sponsored by State Sens. Brent Steele (R-Bedford) and Mike Young (R-Indianapolis), House Bill 1006 aims to better align the punishments for crimes of similar severity.
The legislation was drafted after a four-year examination of the current laws by the Criminal Code Evaluation Commission (CCEC). This bipartisan commission included members representing the judiciary, prosecutors, defense attorneys and the Department of Correction, among others.
"Indiana's current criminal code was largely created in parts, one offense at a time," Steele said. "This has led to sentences that are not proportionate when compared with sentences for similar crimes. By examining the felony code as a whole, the commission was able to ensure that penalties match the seriousness of the crime and that our criminal code is working in a fair, consistent way."
In order to help improve proportionality, HB 1006 would change Indiana's four classes of felonies (Classes A-D) into six classes (Classes 1-6). The legislation would also change the credit time system, requiring offenders to serve at least 75 percent of their sentence, instead of 50 percent as under current law. These changes would create greater certainty on how long an offender would spend in prison for his or her crimes.
"With these proposed revisions, our corrections system can reduce prison costs while keeping society even safer from crime," Young said. "The highest-level criminals would spend more time in prison, while non-violent offenders would receive more help to change their behavior, addressing the situation in which offenders are constantly in and of prison."
If enacted, the revised criminal code would become effective on July 1, 2014, giving law enforcement and corrections officials one year to prepare for implementation of the changes.
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