GUEST COMMENTARY: Criminal code reform on right track, tweaks needed

2013-10-06T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Criminal code reform on right track, tweaks neededBy Brian Gensel nwitimes.com
October 06, 2013 12:00 am  • 

During the 2013 legislative session, the Indiana General Assembly took positive steps in enacting the first comprehensive criminal code reform since 1977 in House Enrolled Act 1006. This was a significant step toward a better criminal justice system in Indiana.

Included in the reforms are requirements that felons serve 75 percent of their sentences, along with increases in penalties for some violent crimes.

The Legislature delayed the effective date of the new code to July 1, 2014, to allow time to encourage a review of the proposed law and proposal of positive changes to House Enrolled Act 1006.

Prosecutors believe the Indiana criminal code must serve and protect the citizens of Indiana. We support the positive changes in House Enrolled Act 1006, and the proposition the Legislature should fund rehabilitative services for those with substance addiction.

As the Indiana Legislature continues to review the Indiana criminal code in the 2014 legislative session, HEA 1006 must protect Hoosiers.

Prosecutors are advocating for additional critical improvements to ensure safety and protection of Hoosiers. Some examples of improvements we are seeking follow.

• As written, House Enrolled Act 1006 dramatically reduced penalties for drug dealers and manufacturers. Prosecutors firmly believe our communities must be protected from manufacturers and dealers of hard drugs such as meth, heroin and cocaine.

With the seizure of more than 1,700 meth labs in Indiana last year, and the sharp increase in heroin use and overdoses, we cannot stand for dramatic reductions in penalties for dealers of these hard drugs. Indiana needs a strong response to those who seek to destroy our communities through such activities.

• Additionally, HEA 1006 allows sentences for most crimes to be fully suspended. Prosecutors strongly believe serious felons should not be eligible to receive a fully suspended sentence.

A rapist, a child molester, a felon who committed an armed robbery — all of these offenders would be eligible for suspended sentences under HEA 1006. This is a drastic change from longstanding law, and must be corrected.

• Finally, prosecutors will be seeking stronger penalties for child pornographers, human traffickers and those who harm children. Some of the penalties for these crimes are the lowest felonies in the Indiana Criminal Code — the same as vote fraud, forgery and other non-violent crimes. We believe those who harm children should be treated much more severely.

We appreciate the difficult task and hard work of the Legislature thus far in reforming the Indiana criminal code, and we look forward to a productive dialogue with the General Assembly and all of those interested in seeking justice for victims in Indiana.

Please join us as we work to serve and protect the citizens of Indiana.

Brian Gensel is Porter County's prosecuting attorney. The opinions are the writer's.

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