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Senators Want Second Look at Shortened Drug Sentences

Bills are latest attempt to dial back 2014 sentencing reform

(INDIANAPOLIS) - Some Senate Republicans want to roll back part of Indiana's five-year-old sentencing reform law.

For years, prosecutors have criticized the sentencing reform as too lenient on drug dealers. Indianapolis Senator Aaron Freeman's bill would tackle part of their concern, by blocking suspended sentences for major drug dealers.

Indiana divides felonies into six levels of seriousness. Sentences at the top level already can't be suspended. That's true of most crimes at the next two levels as well -- Freeman argues it doesn't make sense to treat drug dealers differently.

Salem Senator Erin Houchin says the goal of steering people into treatment instead of prison was a good one. But the opioid epidemic struck about the time the law took effect, and Houchin argues the combination has made treatment efforts less effective. Because sentences are shorter now, she says there's less incentive for drug addicts to take rehab seriously.

A second bill, authored by Indianapolis Senator Jim Merritt, calls for longer sentences across the board, and would ban suspended sentences for repeat offenders at all but the two lowest levels.

(Photo: m-gucci/Thinkstock)

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