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Indiana Lawmakers Considering Criminal Code Overhaul

A proposed overhaul of Indiana’s criminal code has cleared its first legislative hurdle but will be the focus of much more debate in the weeks to come.Last week, an Indiana House committee approved the legislation, which proposes the first major changes to the state’s criminal code since 1977.Supporters say the state is long overdue for an adjustment of punishment for certain crimes.The measure would expand the state’s current four levels of felonies to six.    Co-author Rep. Matt Pierce of Bloomington says it would also create programs to keep lower-level felons out of the prison system."We’re really going to ride your butt (if you're in such a program).  And we’re going to help you find employment, we’re going to get you out there working, we’re going to get you out of bed every morning. We’re going to try to do things to redirect you away from your buddies who seem to always leading you back to drugs or down the wrong path," he said.The legislation comes after a five-year review by Indiana’s bi-partisan Criminal Code Evaluation Commission, which included the input of prosecutors, defense lawyers and law enforcement officials.If approved, it would not go into effect until July of 2014.    The bill now goes to a second House committee for review.

Rick Howlett is host of WFPL's weekly talk show, "In Conversation." Email Rick at rhowlett@lpm.org.