Pharos-Tribune

State News

January 20, 2013

Maureen Hayden: Another Daniels may get state’s criminal code on track

INDIANAPOLIS — Two years ago, Gov. Mitch Daniels set out to reform prison sentencing in Indiana, convinced that the state’s spiraling prison costs were eventually going to squeeze out other budget priorities, including education.

For a long list of reasons — including significant resistance from prosecutors around the state — he couldn’t get it done.

But now, his sister might.

Deborah Daniels is a former prosecutor who served as a U.S. assistant attorney general in President George W. Bush administration’s before returning to Indiana to practice law.

In early 2011, she played a supportive role in crafting the legislative proposal that her brother championed as a solution to the state’s rising prison costs.

That proposal was built on a set of reforms governing sentencing and parole. The details are complex but goal straightforward:

Make punishment more proportional to the crime, reserve prison for the most serious offenders, and get the drug addicts and low-level offenders out from behind prison bars and into treatment and supervision programs to reduce recidivism.

It was such an ambitious proposal that it’s not surprising that it didn’t gain the traction needed to pass through the Indiana General Assembly in 2011. Many thought sentencing reform had just died.

But Deborah Daniels helped revive it.

In the summer of 2011, the legislative-appointed Criminal Code Evaluation Commission asked her to head up a “work group” of attorneys who took an intensive look at Indiana’s criminal laws.

That work group included Andrew Cullen of the Indiana Public Defender Council and Suzanne O’Malley of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council — representing two strong and often opposing points of view — as well as a former Marion County drug prosecutor and a small army of law school interns.  

They spent months identifying where Indiana’s criminal code was inconsistent, redundant, and top-heavy in punishment.

Then, working with the commission members, they recommended changes to the code to make it more fair.

Typical of the recommendations they made: Someone caught near a schoolyard with a few grams of cocaine shouldn’t face a harsher prison sentence than a rapist.

The work of that group is what formed the framework for a 422-page bill now in the General Assembly: Legislation that rewrites much of Indiana’s criminal code.

Once again, the proposal puts forth a set of reforms governing sentencing and parole. And once again, the details are complex but goal straightforward:

Make punishment more proportional to the crime, reserve prison for the most serious offenders, and get the drug addicts and low-level offenders out from behind prison bars and into treatment and supervision programs to reduce recidivism.

The legislation has a long way to go. It contains elements — like reduction in drug penalties — that might scare lawmakers who like to keep an eye on the next election.  

But it was Deborah Daniels — remember: a former prosecutor — who best described the thinking behind the effort, in an interview with the Indianapolis Business Journal:

“How do you find ways to help people take a different turn in life when they come out of prison, instead of treating them like criminals for the rest of their lives and thereby encouraging them to be criminals?” Daniels asked. “Can you make some changes that would give people a chance?”

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
State News
  • NWS-PT040714 Hogsett mug.jpg The job? Guarding public trust INDIANAPOLIS -- Joe Hogsett was being vetted for the job of U.S. Attorney four years ago when he asked a federal judge for advice. That judge observed that there hadn't been a high-profile public corruption case in the southern district of Indiana s

    April 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Flood Insurance Indiana [Duplicate] Indiana braces for flood insurance subsidy changes INDIANAPOLIS -- Thousands of Indiana homeowners who live in flood-prone neighborhoods are bracing for insurance premium increases, despite Congress' latest fix for the government's debt-saddled flood insurance program. More than 13,300 Indiana homeow

    March 30, 2014 2 Photos

  • NWS-PT031714 Wolkins mug.jpg Zooming through: Rules on mo-peds headed to governor's desk INDIANAPOLIS -- Rep. Dave Wolkins could only oppose mo-ped regulations for so long, as more bikes zipped along the roads and were involved in an increasing number of accidents. So Wolkins -- who spent five years fighting to keep Indiana among the few

    March 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • Prison inmates part of new Legion post TERRE HAUTE -- Wearing khaki-colored matching uniforms, more than 20 veterans inside a maximum-security prison stood tall to salute the flag of the United States at an event that welcomed them as new American Legion members. These men, inmates at the

    March 17, 2014

  • NWS-PT031414 beer alcohol.jpg Old ban on beer booze level may be tapped out INDIANAPOLIS -- Loughmiller's Pub across from the Statehouse is a favorite hangout for legislators and lobbyists who like the tavern's menu of gourmet burgers and craft beers. State police are regular lunch customers, as are state officials who regul

    March 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Indiana House leader: Tax, preschool deals near INDIANAPOLIS -- Republican leaders working on a series of last-minute compromises on top-tier issues of tax cuts, preschool and road funding announced Tuesday they were close to final agreements. "I say agreement in principle because we still have to

    March 12, 2014

  • Same-sex couples sue state over ban LOUISVILLE -- Erin Brock says she's prepared to fight to have her love legally recognized by the state of Indiana. Brock and her fiancé Melissa Love share a home and children in Jeffersonville and are one of four same-sex couples from Southern Indian

    March 10, 2014

  • Ivy Tech's $83M wish list meets skeptical audience INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Ivy Tech Community College says it needs $83 million more from the state so it can double its enrollment and graduation rates and help the state meet its own goal of increasing the number of Indiana residents with post-high-schoo

    March 9, 2014

  • Bill ends automatic license suspensions for many crimes INDIANAPOLIS -- Unpaid parking fines, falling behind on child support, drunken driving: So many offenses trigger a suspended driver's license in Indiana that more than a half-million Hoosiers have lost their driving privileges. In fact, driving on a

    March 7, 2014

  • NWS-PT030314 Zionsville bus.jpg Rolling billboards: Legislation may create pilot program INDIANAPOLIS — Cash hungry schools may start selling ads on the sides of buses to make up millions of dollars lost because of property tax caps. Legislation moving through the General Assembly would create a pilot program allowing a few districts to

    March 3, 2014 1 Photo

Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Poll

Should mushroom hunters be allowed to forage off-trail in Indiana state parks?

Yes
No
Undecided
     View Results
Featured Ads
AP Video
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.