Senate passes new criminal sentencing rules

A major overhaul of Indiana's criminal sentencing laws aimed at sending fewer non-violent offenders to prison has been approved by the state Senate.

The Senate voted 46-4 in favor of the bill Wednesday. It now goes back to the House, which earlier approved a different version.

Supporters hope changes to sentencing laws will direct more people convicted of low-level felonies to work release and other local programs. It also would require those convicted of the most-serious crimes to spend more time in prison.

The overhaul wouldn't take effect until July 2014 and Sen. Brent Steele says he expects the Legislature will consider many changes on specific crimes next year.

A state analysis projects the overhaul will prevent the need for more state prison space for at least a decade.

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