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LONGER SENTENCES: Justice overhaul may have local impact

May 1, 2013

COLUMBIA CITY — A proposed Indiana House bill could have major effects on local law enforcement.

House Bill 1006, which is set to take effect in the summer of 2014, includes many overhauls to the current criminal justice system.

This includes changing the felony system, which currently has four types of charges based on severity, from Class A to Class D, to a level system, where there will be six levels of felony charges.

There will be changes to credit time as well, with most felons being required to serve 75 percent of their sentences before being released, as opposed to 50 percent, which is the present standard.

Part of the purpose behind the bill is to make more severe felons serve longer sentences, while at the same time, allowing lower-level offenders and those with non-violent convictions serve more sentences locally.

Fears at the state level are that the changes could result in a surge in the prison population. That concern is echoed locally.

“To me, just on the surface, it appears like it is going to lengthen (criminals’) stay and increase the population due to the length of stay increasing,” said Whitley County Sheriff Mark Hodges.

With more than a year before the bill is implemented, its exact impact is unclear. Despite overcrowding fears, Hodges believes things could return to normal, it just might take time.

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