Bill seeks longer sentences for violent criminals

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Indiana House of Representatives will vote next week on a bill that would lead to longer sentences for violent criminals.

The bill that won unanimous approval in the House Ways and Means Committee would require murderers and other violent felons to serve 85 percent of their sentences. Many of them now serve only 50 percent.

"The worst of the worst — the people at the top — they're going to serve more time," said Rep. Matt Pierce (D-Bloomington). "We've enhanced those penalties."

It's part of a comprehensive effort to rewrite sentencing guidelines that would also reduce sentences for some lesser crimes and eliminate prison overcrowding.  The emphasis, however, is on keeping sociopaths locked up. Rep. Greg Steuerwald (R-Danville) is the author.

"We've also reduced the credit time you can earn for getting a college degree from four years to two," said Steuerwald. "The goal is certainty in sentencing."

The bill grows out of a task force launched in 2009 by Gov. Mitch Daniels. The last comprehensive overhaul of Indiana's criminal code took place in the 1970s.

Lawmakers say the bill could postpone the need for a new prison by four or five years.  Current projections would require the construction of a new state prison in 2019.

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