Will Indiana’s criminal code changes help?

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – A Wabash Valley prosecutor questions whether changes to the Indiana’s criminal code will work as designed.  Sweeping changes to the criminal code were passed last legislative session and went into effect July 1.  Lawmakers hope the changes will help decrease jail and prison populations.

When we approached Vigo County Prosecutor Terry Modesitt for an interview on the changes to the Indiana criminal code, he told us he needed to look a few things up first. 

He brought in a huge stack of documents, which outline all of the changes made.

“The whole theory behind the law changes are, unfortunately, we don’t’ have any money for jails or people in prisons,” Modesitt summarized. “We’re overcrowded everywhere, and something’s got to give.”

This is the first sweeping changes to the Indiana criminal code since the 1970’s.  The changes only apply to felonies.

Before July 1, Indiana had four classes of felonies.  Now, we have six felony classes with different sentencing guidelines.  Modesitt was hoping for more discretion for prosecutors and judges when it came to sentencing.

“Every time you have set guidelines on something, you’re going to have that one unique case where you can throw that out the window,” said Modesitt.

Offenders convicted of non-violent crimes will still get one day credit for every day of time served in jail or prison.  That’s not the case for violent offenders, who must now serve three-quarters of their sentence.

Property crimes saw the biggest changes.  Before July 1st, all thefts were felonies.  Now, only thefts of property above $750 are felonies.  All other thefts are misdemeanors.  Also, burglaries that once carried a possible prison sentence of 6 to 20 years now only carry one to six year sentences.

“Here we are having to almost give people passes on some types of crimes, because we have not been responsible with our budgets and with our money to now we’ve got a situation to where we can’t afford to punish people for the things they did,” said Modesitt.

Modesitt agrees changed needed to be made to the criminal code, but says we all will have to wait and see if these are the changes Indiana needs

Modesitt questions whether the Indiana code changes will alleviate jail and prison overcrowding.  He says this is due to increasing the time violent offenders must serve.

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