VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) – A sweeping reform. The first major overhaul of the Indiana criminal code in four decades started July 1, and it means big changes for criminals and law enforcement alike.
Basically, the law breaks down like this.Violent offenders and those with more serious crimes face tougher sentences.
“People that are considered career criminals when they do go to prison, instead of doing 50 percent of their time, they’ll have to do 75 percent of their time. So that’s a plus,” said Detective Sergeant Denzil Lewis, Terre Haute Police Department.
At the same time, it offers suspended sentences for lesser crimes, including some drug-related charges.
“I guess what legislators were trying to do is figure out who’s most deserving of going to prison and making it more appropriate to have the more deserving people go to prison as opposed to someone who may be a first, second or third time offender. So they’re trying to weed out the career criminals as opposed to someone who may have just hit a rough patch in life,” said Lewis.
But some worry about the effect of these changes, especially ones that leave drug offenders and other lesser criminals with reduced sentences.
“I wish they would have just opened it up then to where there’s more discretion with the prosecution and with the court. Because you have a balancing system there anyway,” said Terry Modesitt, Vigo County prosecutor.
The state says this helps reduce the financial burden for them. It reduces the state’s prison population. But some don’t agree with that.
“Basically, most of the prosecutors across the state made comments that if you’re going to make it where the one with the more serious ones serve 75 over 50, by the time you look at all this from start to finish, it may not have hardly any effect over the actual jail overcrowding or prison time, when we’re done,” said Modesitt.
“As a society, I think we have to realize that our population is growing and as the population grows the criminal element will grow, and as that grows, we will have to build more jails. We’re going to have to build bigger jails, at the end of the day. They can change the criminal code all they want,” said Lewis.
Also, one of the major changes in the code is the definition of theft.
Would-be shoplifters can now steal up to $750 worth of items and only be charged with a misdemeanor, as opposed to a felony as previously stated in Hoosier law.