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Sheriff Concerned With Overcrowding At Jail
Updated March 26, 2014 7:37 AM
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(BEDFORD) - Lawrence County Sheriff Sam Craig told the commissioners Tuesday morning that there is a problem with overcrowding at the jail.

As of Tuesday morning the facility was housing 159 inmates, of those 34 were females and 2 were Department of Correction holds.

On Friday there were 175 inmates in the jail, until DOC came and got 14 of the inmates. The jail can house 168 inmates.

"We have had discussion on what we are going to do," Craig says. "If the female population increases or we continue to have to house these numbers we will have to look at housing these women at different facilities in other counties."

Craig is concerned with the new changes in Indiana's criminal code which will take effect on July 1.

The new law will lessen penalties for low-level crimes, like possession of marijuana, while increasing the amount of time spent behind bars for violent or repeat offenders.

A key component of the legislation requires Indiana inmates to serve at least 75 percent of the sentence they receive, replacing the current standard of serving just half of the time if a prisoner abides by prison rules. The new law also caps education credit time at two years.

The state's "good-time statute" sentence change starts July 1 and will apply to crimes committed after that date. The state's four divisions of felony offenses are being increased to six, and penalty ranges will be different, offering more discretion for judges. The new law also makes most possession of marijuana offenses misdemeanor crimes, not felonies as is the case under the current law.

"That means those with misdemeanor crimes and D felonies will be spending more time at the Lawrence County Jail," Craig says. "And those that are getting out of jail early and likely to reoffend will be held at our jail, increasing the population until the court decides if they will return to DOC."

County Attorney Dave Smith says that will cost the county money.

"The biggest change (with the new law) will be the length of time offenders will serve in jail," Smith added. "Then the question now becomes who and where will these inmates be housed and at whose expense. The new law pushed the cost out of the state's hands and counties will assume the costs of housing offenders."

Prosecutors and lawmakers who worked to change the criminal code hope the result will be keeping the most serious offenders jailed longer while releasing those convicted of drug and other less-serious crimes back to the community for locally based treatment programs aimed at reducing recidivism and getting offenders back on track.

The legislation comes with $11 million in its first year to develop local programs for defendants who will be directed to addictions and mental health treatment rather than jail. The Indiana Public Defenders Council estimates that 80 percent of people convicted suffer from addiction issues or need psychiatric help.

Indiana felony classifications and sentencing ranges:

CURRENT

  • Murder: 45-65 years, 55 years advisory
  • Class A: 20-50 years, 30 years advisory
  • Class B: 6-20 years, 10 years advisory
  • Class C: 2-8 years, 4 years advisory
  • Class D: 6 months-3 years, 1.5 years advisory

NEW, EFFECTIVE JULY 1

  • Murder: 45-65 years, 55 years advisory
  • Class 1: 20-50 years, 30 years advisory
  • Class 2: 10-30 years, 17 years advisory
  • Class 3: 3-20 years, 6 years advisory
  • Class 4: 2-12 years, 4 years advisory
  • Class 5: 1-6 years, 2 years advisory
  • Class 6: 6-30 months, 1 year advisory


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