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Indiana Prosecutors Pushing For Higher Drug Sentences

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Dimitris Kalogeropoylos
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https://www.flickr.com/photos/dkalo/

Indiana prosecutors say they need help combatting the state’s drug crisis. The Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Association is asking the legislature to increase penalties for drug dealers by creating a new crime: aggravated drug dealing. 

Offenders would receive harsher sentences under a variety of scenarios: if they’re caught with at least ten grams of a serious drug (such as heroin, cocaine or meth), if they’re selling to children, if they have a gun, or if they’re selling in a drug-free zone – which prosecutors want to expand beyond schools to include family housing centers and youth program facilities. 

Dearborn and Ohio County Prosecutor Aaron Negangard says those sentences should be non-suspendable – meaning a judge can’t divert offenders away from prison into probation. 

That largely flies in the face of Indiana’s recent criminal code reform, which aimed to keep low-level, nonviolent drug offenders out of prison and push them into rehabilitation.  But Negangard says that reform, which only went into effect last year, isn’t working.

“We, as prosecutors, seriously disagree with the notion that nonviolent offenders needed to be released to begin with because they weren’t nonviolent,” he says.

Both Governor Mike Pence and House Speaker Brian Bosma have expressed support for increasing penalties for drug dealers. 

The Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Association is also pushing to make pseudoephedrine a prescription-only drug. Indiana is now is poised to lead the nation in meth production for the third consecutive year.

The IPAA says other states that have made it available only through a prescription saw a decrease in meth making: Oregon had a 96 percent reduction in meth labs while Mississippi’s labs went down 83 percent.  Washington County Prosecutor Dustin Houchin acknowledges that there is increased cost and inconvenience that comes with making pseudoephedrine prescription-only – which has often been the obstacle blocking such a move in the General Assembly.

“I contend that the costs that they’re bearing for the cleanup of meth labs, for the injuries to people, for the damage done to children, for the property values going down, for law enforcement and first responders being injured,” he says, “the cost and inconvenience of that to our communities is far greater.”

Prosecutors will have a valuable ally in the upcoming session: House Speaker Brian Bosma announced he will personally support legislation making pseudoephedrine a prescription-only drug.  

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.
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