The state of Indiana has been hit hard by the opiate epidemic. It has become such a problem that prosecutors in the state are going after drug dealers and are doing so with very strict penalties. In a movement to drive a point home that drug dealing is a serious offense and will be prosecuted to the highest degrees of the law, prosecutors are going after the dealers and very harshly. They are even restoring stricter penalties for addicts who resist treatment to help them.
Two years ago, in an effort to shrink the enormous prison population in Indiana, the laws against drug dealing were minimized. These softer laws backfired and created a larger problem for the state and it’s citizens. There has now been a request to strengthen the laws and give out much stricter penalties. This also comes as Indiana faces record numbers of deadly overdoses linked to heroin and prescription painkillers. The numbers are staggering but a harsh reality when overdoses have nearly tripled over the past decade.
"We need to ask the question, 'Did we go too far?'" said David Powell, head of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, who formerly served as Greene County Prosecutor. Did the leniency of law regarding drugs create a much larger problem? David Powell planned to raise the question to a legislative committee in charge of looking into the impact of allowing the distribution of clean needles to intravenous drug users.
The clean intravenous needles program was sparked in order to fight the growing issue of HIV that had been spreading in the state of Indiana. The spread was blamed on the outbreak of users shooting up the prescription painkiller Opana. Since the law was passed, 19 counties badly beaten by opiate abuse have initiated efforts to begin the needle-exchanges to fight off HIV and the spread of Hepatitis C.
David Powell said local prosecutors are worried most about the changes to drug-dealing penalties that went into effect with the sentencing reform on July 1, 2014. There is a huge difference between the way things were and the way they are now. It is almost unbelievable how much change has been made in a negative way. Before the law kicked in, someone convicted of dealing heroin or prescription painkillers faced a minimum of six years in prison. The new law reduced that minimum sentence to 1 year. Before the sentencing reform, someone convicted of dealing any drug to a minor faced a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison. The minimum term now is only two years. The mandatory choice is gone and judges have the ability to suspend sentences.
Prosecutors are not looking to restore the harsh penalties of the past but they are looking to changing the sentencing to be a bit harsher than they are now hoping it cuts back on the abuse going on through the state. For the worst of the worst drug-dealers, their sentencing is not fitting the crime. Change needs to happen and it needs to happen quickly to help curb the abuse.