Money for counties key to Indiana penalty change

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An Indiana legislative panel that's considering sending nonviolent low-level offenders to work release or other local programs instead of state prison is trying to figure out where to get money to help counties with the change.

The Criminal Code Evaluation Commission will meet Thursday at the Statehouse. Its work is part of an effort to overhaul Indiana's criminal justice system. The sentencing overhaul has stalled in the Legislature the past two years, but state prisons are near capacity and the state might have to build more prisons or release inmates earlier.

Some legislators believe some nonviolent offenders could be handled more cheaply and more successfully with local programs, but the idea has been opposed by prosecutors.

Officials say cash-strapped counties can't afford the extra load on their community corrections programs.

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