Commission pushes for criminal code reform

Nov 1, 2012

Members of the Criminal Code Evaluation Commission have recommended major reforms to the Indiana General Assembly, which will take up the legislation in the 2013 session.
Credit Brandon Smith / Indiana Public Broadcasting

Lawmakers will attempt the first comprehensive reform of Indiana’s criminal code in 30 years next session after legislation prepared over the last three years by a legislative study committee was approved Tuesday.  But some state criminal justice organizations say the reform package will still require significant work before it can garner their support.

A huge portion of the criminal code overhaul will be put in one piece of legislation next session, something Indiana Public Defender Council executive director Larry Landis says may not work. 

Landis prefers a piecemeal approach, making incremental steps towards reforming the code.  But he says that’s not the effort’s biggest obstacle.

“When you ask elected officials to vote to reduce penalties for crime, they get a little nervous because it’s safe to say, ‘We want new crimes and enhanced punishments,’” Landis said.

Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council executive director David Powell says both sides will have to give something in order to make the reform work.  But he says he doesn’t see a crisis situation that necessarily calls for significant penalty reduction.

“I feel uncomfortable as an old prosecutor saying that lowering penalties will reduce crime,” Powell said. “You could argue that it might increase.”

Both Democrat and Republican legislators say they expect to pass a significant portion of criminal code reform legislation in the upcoming session.