The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Cops, courts and fires

January 10, 2014

Sentencing reform concerns prosecutor

ANDERSON — Changes are on the way in Indiana’s criminal code, specifically sentencing reform. And it has state officials concerned.

Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings is one of them.

Starting in July, the reform eases penalties for non-violent crimes like drug use and theft and strengthens punitive measures for sex and violent offenders. The law, which overhauls the state’s felony criminal code established in 1977, is expected to put greater emphasis on communities to rehabilitate non-violent offenders through problem-solving courts and community solutions. At the same time, it will impose greater prison terms for violent felons. It’s also expected to generally change the way court procedures are handled.

On Monday, The Herald Bulletin reported that sheriffs and prosecutors around the state are concerned about the reform for several reasons. For example, under the law, a sentence for drug-dealing that currently carries a 10-year sentence could be reduced to two years. Additionally, officials worry communities will have extra onus placed on them to rehabilitate drug offenders without receiving proper funding to operate the increased load in problem-solving courts.

“We’re not a little worried. We’re very worried,” Cummings said.

Cummings said that under the reform, convictions involving drugs will be largely marginalized. He cited methamphetamine in particular.

“Under this, meth will be treated like a low-level offense. And it’s not. This community has a serious problem with that,” Cummings said.

The county’s struggle with meth has been well-documented. The local Pendleton Police Post, which handles several surrounding counties, created a Meth Team to specifically deal with the scourge. In 2012, the county led the state and was second in the country in meth lab busts by police. Those numbers went down in 2013, but Cummings and members of the Madison County Drug Task Force have admitted the reductions are more due to lack of emphasis and funding than to a real drop in usage.

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