NEW ALBANY — It didn’t take long for three new Floyd County Council members to find out the complexities of dealing with budgets and incumbrances at the first meeting of the new year Tuesday. They also received a lesson in the needs of Floyd County courts in 2017 and beyond.
Floyd County Circuit Court Judge Terrence Cody laid out the needs and deficiencies in the courts and probation department in hopes of the council having the entire year to address some of the problems.
“I wanted to provide information for 2017 that need to be addressed by the council over the course of the year,” Cody said.
Cody, flanked by Judge Susan Orth, Judge James Hancock and Magistrate Julie Fessel Flanigan, addressed several issues.
He said the current Floyd County Alcohol and Drug program, which is certified by Indiana Court Services, needs $185,000 to $210,000 to be fully staffed. He said through the years program fees have been used to pay salaries which has left the program lacking for manuals, drug testing supplies and other equipment. He said there are usually an average of 150 to 200 people in the program.
Prison Planet.com » Wolf Blitzer Blames Indiana for Chicago Gun Crime
During the January 2 airing of The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer on CNN, Blitzer brought up Chicago’s near-800 homicides during 2016 and blamed the deaths on Indiana gun laws.
Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA-49) was the guest, and Blitzer looked at him and said, “There were more people murdered this past year in Chicago than in New York, a larger city, and Los Angeles, a larger city, combined. Something is obviously very, very wrong in Chicago.”
Issa responded, “It really is. And, not to get into the gun question, they have strong gun laws. The problem is, the gangs have guns and you’re not going to take them away with laws.”
Blitzer then went after Indiana, saying, “The mayor and others say the problem they have is most of those guns don’t originate in Chicago or even Illinois, they originate in neighboring Indiana, where the gun laws are much more lax.”
In Indianapolis, a person is more likely to die from a drug-related incident than a car crash.
Chris Naylor, assistant executive director of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, shared that statistic and other drug-related facts with the members of the Indiana House Courts and Criminal Code Committee at a meeting Wednesday. Representatives from the state’s judicial branch were invited to share progress and their concerns regarding Indiana criminal code reform with lawmakers.
The meeting featured members of the Justice Reinvestment Advisory Council, a committee created in 2015 by House Bill 1006 to review corrections and probation services and related grant funding. Jane Seigel, executive director of the Indiana Office of Court Services and JRAC chair, told committee members that the council was experiencing success through its initial work, but was still struggling with implementing certain criminal code reforms, such as services related to mental health and addiction issues and jail overcrowding.
Those two issues and their correlation were a central focus of the two-hour meeting, where both judicial and health leaders told committee members that the state must focus on both mental health and criminal thinking in order to effectively reform offenders and keep them out of prison.
Kevin Moore, director of the Family and Social Services Administration’s Division of Mental Health and Addiction, discussed the creation and implementation of Recovery Works, a statutorily-created addiction support program designed for people who are uninsured and who, without treatment, would face incarceration. Moore, who has focused his work on the link between addictions and the criminal justice system for the last 25 years, said Recovery Works was created to not only treat mental health and addiction issues, but also to address any related criminal thoughts or activities an offender might be dealing with.
“It’s one thing to have somebody clean and sober, but if you don’t address the criminal thinking and the criminal activity, you’ve not done a whole lot to help them,” Moore told the committee.
Drugs are one of the largest driving forces behind crime in Indiana, especially in Indianapolis, Naylor said. Similar to Moore’s emphasis on treating both addiction and criminal thinking, Naylor noted that often, it takes incarceration to prove to an offender that they need to seek professional help. To that end, Naylor echoed the Governor’s Task Force on Drug Enforcement, Treatment & Prevention’s recommendation for legislation that supports higher penalties for drug dealing.
Committee member Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, challenged that, noting that stiffer penalties in the past were imposed to little or no avail. But Naylor said there is now a new element in the state’s fight against drug crimes – public health. If public health is considered, then people who are true addicts will receive the treatment they need, while drug dealers who merely prey on addicts will receive harsher discipline for their role in fueling addiction across the state, he said.
Bill Wilson, jail services coordinator with the Indiana Sheriffs Association, told committee members that inmates with mental health issues are likelier to be in jail longer, to be in isolation more frequently and to be more of a management issue in general. But if addicts can receive the help they need, then they could possibly stay out of prison, alleviating overcrowding, the JRAC members said.
The full two-hour meeting, including comments from representatives of the Indiana Public Defender Council, the Indiana Sheriffs Association, the Indiana Department of Correction and others, can be viewed here.
The 2017 Indiana General Assembly is slowly starting.
The 2017 session is a “long” budget session. The Senate and House will resume their normal 4 days per week schedule on Monday January 9th, starting with a quick meeting then moving on to Governor Eric Holcomb’s inauguration at 11:00 AM at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum at the Indiana State Fairgrounds (indoors).
POPAI has been invited to make a presentation at the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee meeting @ 1:30 PM Wednesday January 11th (meeting will be live streamed and available for on-demand viewing).
The POPAI Lobbyist LegisGroup Public Affairs, LLC (Glenna Shelby) sends POPAI a weekly update regarding bills we are tracking on behalf of our membership. These weekly updates may be found in the MEMBERS ONLY area. The first 2017 weekly legislative report is attached HERE for easy reference. Jan 6 17 POPAI Legislative Report
To view a list of filed 2017 bills go to 2017 Bills.
Please contact your POPAI District Representative with any questions, suggestions or inquiries about legislation that may have an impact on Indiana probation.
Linda Brady, POPAI President and Adam McQueen, POPAI Vice-president
Judges would no longer be required to advise criminal defendants of the earliest and latest possible release dates under legislation introduced in the Indiana Senate. The legislation also would strike language that shields rejected plea agreements and proceedings from the official court record.
Those are the provisions of Senate Bill 120 authored by Sen. Eric Koch, R- Bedford.
The bill would amend I.C. 35-35-3-3 by striking current law reading, “Neither the content of the plea agreement, the presentence report, nor the hearing shall be a part of the official record of the case unless the court approves the plea agreement.” READ ON