EDITORIAL: Senate must recalibrate scales of justice

2013-03-04T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Senate must recalibrate scales of justice nwitimes.com
March 04, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Indiana's criminal code, no less than any other mechanism, requires periodic maintenance.

Penalties get enhanced, new laws are created, and over time the sense of perspective can inadvertently get distorted. This happens in every state, not just Indiana.

House Bill 1006, now before the Indiana Senate Committee on Corrections & Criminal Law, would rebalance the scales of justice. The bill, cosponsored by state Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, is the product of five years of effort to rethink and reform how Indiana sentences felons.

The idea is to reserve prison for the most serious offenders and to get drug addicts and low-level offenders into treatment programs to reduce the likelihood that their criminal behavior will be repeated.

The current four levels of felonies would be expanded into six, with the most serious offenses getting the toughest penalties.

Felons would be required to receive at least 75 percent of their sentences instead of getting one less day behind bars for each day of good behavior.

This reform effort puts extra pressure on counties to provide community corrections services, but Lawson said she is working to ensure counties get the financial resources they need so this can happen.

Without the sentencing reform, Indiana can expect to build a new prison in the next several years. With the reform, that shouldn't be necessary. Reducing the recidivism rate, though enrolling convicts in treatment programs, should pay off in the long run.

This proposal isn't just about saving money, though. The main point is to restore perspective on which crimes are worse than others.

The House has passed a monumental sentencing reform bill. Now it's up to the Senate to do its part in restoring balance to the criminal justice system.

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