New Criminal Code Stirs Questions On Road To Implementation Date

By Jeff Neumeyer

November 15, 2013 Updated Nov 15, 2013 at 6:53 PM EDT

INDIANA (21ALIVE) --- An overhaul of Indiana's criminal code, designed to reduce prison populations and costs, is raising questions about how county governments will manage new offenders and funding issues.

It’s actually still a work in progress.

The state legislature earlier this year approved reforms that have gotten wide support.

But the plan to re-direct more non-violent offenders back to their home counties is making some folks in the criminal justice system nervous.

Under the changes, murderers, rapists, and other violent offenders figure to serve longer sentences, while the goal is to keep more non-violent offenders, like those committing drug and property crimes, out of prison.

The idea is to cut prison costs, then funnel the savings to local governments to pay for intensive monitoring alternatives for lower level felons.

Allen County is operating many such programs now, but will the county be overwhelmed without lots of cash support from the state?

" Our work release is full and to capacity, typically on a daily basis, our jail is pretty full. We've got community corrections and the ankle bracelets...that is extremely full," said Allen Superior Court Judge Wendy Davis.

" I think that we've all experienced all kinds of unfunded mandates, whether it's coming from the federal government or the state government, and that's not a situation we want to put local governments into," said Republican State Representative Kathy Heuer from Whitley County.

She says lawmakers are intent on making sure adequate funding is provided to local units of government to make the reforms work.

The Department of Correction already is raising a red flag that prison populations may go up, not down, under this plan.

If the number of inmates increases, the savings would evaporate, and then it’s not clear where local governments would get the cash to prop up supervision programs.

The changes are supposed to launch next July, but there are rumblings of the effective date being delayed until questions about funding and sentencing guidelines can be resolved.

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