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State’s (Massachusetts) high court rules on bail’s impact on poor defendants

Full Article

WCVB on 8/25/2017

The case of a Hampden County man locked up for three-and-a-half years awaiting trial because he couldn’t make bail on a charge of armed robbery while masked led to a state high court decision Friday that advocates say will reform a bail system they say punishes poor people.

“Our clients who don’t have the money or the resources to post bail, they’re never given that opportunity to post bail because the bail is being set in an amount that they can’t pay,” Shira Diner, an attorney with the Committee for Public Counsel Services, told 5 Investigates.

“This decision is going to make a big change for our clients for poor people and level the playing field and make things more equal when it comes to the bail system in Massachusetts,” she said.

In its ruling, the state Supreme Judicial Court decision said judges must now take into account defendants’ ability to pay when setting bail.

“A bail that is set without any regard to whether a defendant is a pauper or a plutocrat runs the risk of being excessive and unfair,” the decision said. “A $250 cash bail will have little impact on the well-to-do, for whom it is less than the cost of a night’s stay in a downtown Boston hotel, but it will probably result in detention for a homeless person whose entire earthly belongings can be carried in a cart.”

Judicial reform efforts in Massachusetts and across the country are focused on bail systems for what advocates say are the adverse impact they can have on the poor. The Committee for Public Counsel Services filed a friend of the court brief in the case.

“Our clients who don’t have the money or the resources to post bail, they’re never given that opportunity to post bail because the bail is being set in an amount that they can’t pay,” said Diner. “This decision is going to make a dig change for our clients, for poor people, and level the playing field and make things more equal when it comes to the bail system in Massachusetts.”

Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan, president of the Massachusetts District Attorney’s Association, is reviewing the case, a spokesperson said.

The SJC ruled in the case that Jahmal Brangan, charged in a 2014 Springfield bank robbery, was entitled to a new hearing to review the $40,000 in bail that has kept him behind bars for the past three-and-a-half years while awaiting trial. Continue reading →

Police: Intruder shot to death after kicking open wrong door

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Indy Star on 09/15/2017 by Vic Ryckaert,

A man thought his child’s mother was inside when he banged on the front door and demanded to enter a northeast-side apartment late Thursday.

But it was the wrong address.

When this angry man kicked in the door to that wrong apartment, he paid with his life.

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police said a resident was protecting himself, a woman and two small children who live with him when he fired a gun and killed the intruder.

“Everything at this point in time seems to be pointing toward a homeowner protecting his family and shooting an intruder who made forced entry into their apartment,” Capt. Harold Turner told Fox59.

Just before midnight, the intruder started pounding on the door in the 5700 block of Wiebeck Court, according to an IMPD news release.

He told the people inside he was looking for his girlfriend.

She doesn’t live here, the residents told him.

The man kicked open the door anyway, police said, and he charged toward the man inside.

“The adult male fired his gun striking the decedent multiple times while the remainder of the occupants of the apartment hid,” according to an IMPD news release.

The resident called police and turned over his gun, according to the news release. He cooperated with the investigators.

The front door and door frame were heavily damaged, consistent with being kicked open.

Police did not release the intruder’s name Friday, but they know his identity.

The intruder’s girlfriend, police said, lives in a different building in The Cottages of Fall Creek neat 56th Street and I-465.

A judge had issued his girlfriend a protective order against him. She called police twice on Sept. 2 reporting that he had tried to enter her home, but he was gone before officers arrived.

No one else was injured, even though a bullet passed through a wall into the unit next door.

Indiana law allows citizens to use deadly force if they are protecting themselves or others from death or serious injury. This is the 11th self-defense shooting in Marion County this year.

Probation officer funding issues spark public safety tax discussion

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Herald Times on 9/12/2017 by Ernest Rollins

A request to move the funding of a probation officer position to Monroe County’s public safety local income tax fund sparked discussion about spending priorities for those tax dollars, and the overall condition of user fee funds.

At a county 2018 budget hearing Monday, Chief Probation Officer Linda Brady told the Monroe County Council her department is requesting that one probation officer position be moved from the court, alcohol and drug fees fund — which is supported by fees collected through the county’s alcohol and drug program — and funded using public safety local income tax dollars.

She said revenue in the fund continues to decline, and it is being projected that it will be in the red by July 2018. The fund helps pay for four probation officer positions, with personnel being the lion’s share of its $291,709 budget. Brady said moving one position will help sustain that fund.

“We have a major source of revenue that is evaporating very quickly,” county council member Eric Spoonmore said.

Deputy Chief Probation Officer Troy Hatfield said declining revenue is likely due to a number of factors, including fewer offenders being sent to alcohol and drug programs. Continue reading →

POPAI August 2017 Legislative Report

Linda Brady reported that she has been appointed to serve as a lay member of the Interim Study Committee on Corrections and Criminal Code.

Senator Mike Young is the Chair, and Representative Tom Washburne is the Vice Chair.

Find more information including dates for the committee meetings and study topics in the Members Only Area at (Please be sure to log in first at )

From vandalism to murder: Hate crimes you didn’t know were happening in Indiana

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The Indianapolis Star on 9/10/17 by Stephanie Wang

FORT WAYNE — “This is a hate crime.”

That’s what a white supremacist told a Fort Wayne police officer last year, according to an affidavit, as he confessed to killing a black man.

Aaryn Snyder showed the police officer a tattoo — a “patch,” the affidavit said, from a “white organization.” He said he earned it by killing.

He stabbed 22-year-old Samuel Hardrix to death, leaving the body to decompose in somebody’s backyard.

The homicide was one of 69 hate crimes reported in Indiana in 2016, according to an annual state report.

Among the other hate crimes police reported:

  • Two white men beat a black man to death in a state prison dormitory in Putnamville.
  • In Indianapolis, a woman received a letter saying the neighborhood didn’t want black people living with white people, and she had “24 hours or else.”
  • Two teenage suspects went on a spray-painting spree in McCordsville, according to police, drawing large swastikas in the streets, “Heil Hitler” and “Gas the Jews” on a construction site, and an anti-black slur in the driveway of a home formerly rented by an African-American couple.

People were attacked and intimidated for being black, for being gay, for being Hispanic — and, according to the report, for being white. They had their homes, cars and businesses vandalized and destroyed for being Jewish or for being Muslim.

While Indiana does not have a hate crime law, it certainly does have hate crimes.

“This is not a hypothetical,” said Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry, who has advocated for a state hate crime law. “That conduct is out there, and we should all be aware of it.”

Indiana is one of five states without a law addressing penalties for hate crimes that target people because of certain characteristics, such as their race, religion or sexual orientation. But it does require law enforcement agencies to record such crimes and report them to the Indiana State Police. Continue reading →

2017 Founder’s Award: Glenna Shelby

The “Founder’s Award” is a way of recognizing individuals who have significantly contributed to the field of probation in general and specifically to the POPAI organization. The recipient need not be a Probation Officer or POPAI member. The selected person however, shall be characterized by his/her commitment of influence and promotion of professionalism to Indiana probation.

This year’s recipient is not a probation officer; however, she and her colleagues have significantly contributed to the success of our association over the past 20+ years. This person is an experienced lobbyist that monitors legislation affecting probation and the criminal justice system in the State of Indiana. She keeps the POPAI organization informed about legislative bills and issues that affect our profession.

The 2017 Founder’s Award winner is Glenna Shelby from the SDS Group.

Glenna and the SDS Group has assisted POPAI in becoming a well-respected and professional group in the eyes of Indiana lawmakers. If you had asked a state representative or state senator about POPAI 20 years ago it is doubtful they would have known who you were talking about. 20 years later, we find our organization is often invited to participate in various study committees and our name is known.

Glenna has been able to advise POPAI’s Executive Board on when to speak up and when to stay quiet about legislation. She has also ensured that when we do speak that we say the right things. Being involved with the legislature and learning how to present ourselves as a group of professionals with a common vision has benefited all of us. Glenna, and the SDS Group, has been crucial in guiding us in this process. She has challenged us to present ourselves as a cohesive and professional organization dedicated to the advancement of our profession within the state of Indiana.

On behalf of the POPAI Board, please join me in congratulating Glenna Shelby, from the SDS Group, as this year’s Founder’s Award winner.

2017 Rookie Probation Officer of the Year: Brittany Stodghill

Brittany Stodghill

The “Rookie” Probation Officer of the Year Award was established to recognize probation officers who, while at the beginning of their career, show the attitude, aptitude, and the desire to improve themselves and to develop into leaders among their peers. Nominees shall be within their first two (2) years of certification as a probation officer in the state of Indiana. Past winners of this award are Melanie Strode and Rachael Jones.

This year’s winner is an adult probation officer that began her career in 2016. In the nomination for this honor, her Chief Probation Officer notes that this individual is timely, dependable, and has a positive attitude.

She brings laughter and joy to the office and makes everyone’s job better.” Her Chief also states, “She is extremely proactive in her caseload supervision and sincerely believes that each client can be rehabilitated.”

The 2017 Rookie Probation Officer of the Year is Brittany Stodghill of the Hendricks County Probation Department.

In his letter of recommendation, Judge Rhett M. Stuard of Hendricks Superior Court 2 states that Brittany is a hardworking and devoted probation officer. “She cares for her coworkers and those she supervises alike. She gives her all to the department and her clients without complaint.”

On behalf of the POPAI Board, please join me in congratulating Brittany Stodghill as this year’s Rookie Probation Officer of the Year.

2017 Line Probation Officer of the Year: Ben Neureiter

The Line Probation Officer of the Year Award was established to recognize line probation officers who have performed their duties in an outstanding manner and/or made significant contributions to the field of probation at the local, regional or national level. The recipient may also have brought credit or honor to the profession of probation through participation or involvement in community activities or programs. This recognition is awarded to probation officers who are involved in the direct supervision of criminal defendants/juvenile offenders and/or other line probation officer duties such as conducting Presentence Investigations, Preliminary Inquiries, and Predispositional Investigations. Past winners of this award are Dave Williams, Elizabeth Starck and Edward Beber.

This year’s winner is an adult probation officer that has worked with Drug Court and currently supervises a specialized caseload of sex offenders. He also spends a lot of time in the field conducting home visits on moderate and high risk offenders. In the nomination for this honor, his Chief Probation Officer notes that this individual has an excellent attitude and is a very effective and thorough probation officer; he is an honest, respectful, team player.

The 2017 Line Probation Officer of the Year is Ben Neureiter of the Hendricks County Probation Department.

Judge Mark A. Smith of Hendricks Superior Court 4 states, “Ben has demonstrated a harmonious balance between the need to hold offenders accountable while also building relationships in an effort to change their lives. While working with Drug Court participants, Ben has often shown compassion for individuals struggling with addiction by advocating for them during drug court team meetings.”

In Ben’s private life, he and his wife run a non-profit organization called “Why Not Today” which involves running a farm to grow food that is then delivered to homeless shelters.

On behalf of the POPAI Board, please join me in congratulating Ben Neureiter as this year’s Line Probation Officer of the Year.

Criminal Rule 26 Timeline Change

on September 6, 2017 by Indiana Supreme Court

CR 26 timeline change
The Indiana Supreme Court handed down an order that amends the effective date of Sections A and B of Criminal Rule 26 until January 2020. Chief Justice Rush highlights the collaborative work being done to implement an evidence based pretrial justice system.

See attached Order and letter from Chief Justice Rush.

Criminal Rule 26 Order-Rules 20170905

Letter+from+Chief+Justice 9-6-2017

County Probation Officers Recognized

Full Article

The Hendricks County Flyer on 09/01/2017 by Stephanie Dolan

DANVILLE — The vision of the Hendricks County Probation Department is to reduce recidivism through evidence-based cognitive behavior self-change programming and case planning.

Hendricks County Probation oversees both adult and juvenile probation as well as home detention. Cases that come through the probation office range from theft to drinking and driving to battery and sex offenses.

Recently, the Probation Officers Professional Association of Indiana (POPAI) announced that Brittany Stodghill and Ben Neureiter of Hendricks County Probation were winners of the Rookie of the Year Award and the Line Officer of the Year Award, respectively.

“These guys were both nominated for a number of reasons, and they were unanimously voted winners by the committee,” Chief Probation Officer Susan Bentley said. “Nominations have to be received from judges as well as co-workers or supervisors detailing reasons why the candidate is the best one to receive the award.”

The honors ceremony will be officially awarded this month at the POPAI Fall Conference in French Lick, but only Neureiter will be in attendance.

“I’ll be on my honeymoon,” Stodghill said.

Stodghill started with the probation office as an administrative assistant, and was offered the position of probation officer the following year.

“It was actually a year ago today that Susan offered me the job,” she said. “It’s very rewarding, and I love it. Most days I leave very satisfied knowing that I’ve tried to make an impact on at least one person. I try to help as many as I can, but you’re always going to have those who aren’t receptive to your help or to what you say.”

Stodghill said the best thing about her job is knowing when she does have a positive impact on someone and that she’s helped to change a life. She also said that growing up with an alcoholic father who was very abusive to her mother and often in and out of jail is what inspired her to enter the field.

“Maybe he didn’t have a good probation officer who could have helped him like they should have,” she said.

She added that she was pleased and surprised when she heard about her award nomination.

“But I really didn’t think I’d win,” she said.

Neureiter was just as surprised to hear that he’d won Line Officer of the Year. His focus is mainly on sex offender cases, along with field work.

“When I first started, I was like Brittany,” he said. “I thought I was going to change the world. But then the job humbles you real quick. I actually started hating it because I got sick of every case failing. I moved to South Carolina for two years. But I came back. When I did, things were a lot better. We have different judges with different philosophies than those we used to work for.”

With regard to the offenders with whom Neureiter typically works, he said that he looks at them as he would any addict.

“I worked with the drug court a little bit, and I have a new appreciation for addicts,” he said. “We all have our vices and issues, and when I was working with the drug court I’d meet with those offenders two to three times a week and figure out how they got to that point. Sex offenders are no different. When you do this job, you learn that there’s a reason that everybody is where they are.”

Neureiter added that dealing with sex offense cases can certainly be more difficult than others, but there’s always an explanation as to what brought them to the point of offending.

“You view it a little bit differently,” he said.

Both Stodghill and Neureiter said that remaining neutral is integral to the role of a successful probation officer.

“To be a good officer, you have to be non-judgmental,” Neureiter said. “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

“When a client first comes in, I don’t judge,” Stodghill added. “I ask a lot of questions, and I want to get to know the client. I think you have to have the attitude that everyone has a chance, but they are ultimately in control of their own lives. We can’t make them not get in trouble. We can only believe they can do it.”

Neureiter added that he believes probationers often get a bad rap.

“[Offenders] have done stuff that many of us have done,” he said. “They just got caught. When I graduated from college, I had no direction. Probably should have been on probation myself. There are people who get in trouble over and over again, and those cases are frustrating. But then there are those who just simply made a mistake.”

For more information on the Hendricks County Probation Office, visit the website at

Special probation for prisoners with mental illness cuts recidivism

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REUTERS on 8/16/17 by Ronnie Cohen

(Reuters Health) – Every year, an estimated 2 million people diagnosed with mental illness are jailed in the U.S., and soon after they’re released, many wind up behind bars again.

But specialized supervision on probation for people with mental illness can radically reduce the odds they’ll be re-arrested within five years, a new study suggests.

Those who were supervised on specialty probation were nearly three times less likely to return to jail within two years after their release than those on regular probation, researchers reported in JAMA Psychiatry.

Positive support appears to be key, with specialty probation officers acting as part counselor and part cop, said lead author Jennifer Skeem, professor of social welfare and public policy at the University of California at Berkeley.

“It’s about good, caring relationships with a professional. They seem to have that with specialty officers,” she said in a phone interview.

“The rules are clear. There’s fairness, there’s firmness in implementing the rules and then caring. It helps keep people out of trouble with the law,” she said.

Under specialty mental health probation, officers have smaller caseloads and training in mental illness. They coordinate probationers’ treatment and collaborate with treatment providers to keep them out of jail.

Skeem, a clinical psychologist, and her team analyzed data for ethnically diverse men and women from two urban probation agencies, one in Texas using specialty probation, and another in California employing traditional probation. All 359 participants had been diagnosed with mental illness following a psychological evaluation.

The average caseload for specialty probation officers was 50, compared to 100 probationers for traditional officers.

The odds of probationers being arrested after two years were 2.68 times higher for those on traditional probation than for those on specialty probation.

After five years, the probability of re-arrest was 64 percent for traditional probationers, compared to 38 percent for specialty probationers.

Dr. Fred Osher, director of health systems and services policy at The Council of State Governments Justice Center in New York City, called specialty mental health probation “a win-win-win.”

“They’re in the community, they’re getting the support they need, and they’re able to move forward with their own recovery,” he said in a phone interview.

“It’s hard to recover from mental illness if you’re sitting in a jail cell,” said Osher, who was not involved with the study.

The upfront costs for specialty probation are higher, but Skeem said a cost analysis she prepared as part of an as-yet unpublished follow-up study shows that specialty mental health probation saves money over the course of two years. The savings come from the reduced need for emergency room visits and other hospital stays, she said.

The study findings were consistent with less-rigorous studies pointing in the same direction, Osher said.

“It’s research like this that will allow policymakers to consider implementing a program that will have a major impact on people with mental illness in their jails,” he said.

“Even a day or two in jail really messes up a person’s life. You can end up losing your job and housing,” he said. “We want to maximize the use of alternatives to jail if individuals don’t pose a risk.”

POST BAIL – America’s justice system runs on the exchange of money for freedom. Some say that’s unfair. But can data fix it?

Full Article

NBC News on 08/22/2017 by Jon Schuppe

JERSEY CITYN.J. ─ On the ground floor of a deteriorating county courthouse, in a room outfitted with temporary office furniture and tangles of electrical wires, a cornerstone of America’s criminal justice system is crumbling.

A 20-year-old man in a green jail jumpsuit appears on a video monitor that faces a judge. It is early June, and he has been arrested for driving a car with a gun locked in the glove compartment.

If he were in almost any other courtroom in the country, he’d be ordered to stay behind bars until he posted bail — if he could afford it. This is what millions of people charged with crimes from shoplifting to shootings have done for more than two centuries. The bail system, enshrined in the Bill of Rights, is meant to ensure that all defendants, presumed innocent before trial, get a shot at freedom and return to court.

But allowing people to pay for their release has proved unfair to people who don’t have much money. The poor are far more likely to get stuck in jail, which makes them far more likely to get fired from jobs, lose custody of children, plead guilty to something they didn’t do, serve time in prison and suffer the lifelong consequences of a criminal conviction. Those who borrow from a bail bondsman often fall into crippling debt.

At the same time, the wealthy can buy their way out of pretrial detention on just about any offense, including murder.

The bald inequity of this system has triggered a national movement to eliminate bail altogether.

But what to replace it with?

In New Jersey, the answer is an algorithm, a mathematical formula to determine whether someone is likely to return to court for trial or get arrested again.

People with mental illness reoffend less if on specialty probation

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Science Daily on 8/9/2017 by Yasmin Anwar

Each year, some 2 million people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses are arrested for various crimes, inadvertently turning the US correctional system into the nation’s primary provider of inpatient psychiatric care. But an eight-year study now offers a solution.

Researchers studied the supervision and outcomes of 359 offenders with mental illness, comparing those who had been placed on traditional probation against those on “specialty mental health probation,” a program in which probation officers with mental health expertise use a more individualized, treatment-oriented approach.

Their findings, published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association — Psychiatry, show that 52 percent of traditional probationers were re-arrested over a two-year follow-up period, compared to 29 percent of specialty probationers.

“We found that specialty officers had better relationships with probationers, participated more in probationers’ treatment, and relied more on positive compliance strategies than traditional officers,” said study lead author Jennifer Skeem, a professor of social welfare and of public policy at UC Berkeley.

Skeem and fellow researchers launched the study in 2006, recruiting probationers with mental illnesses in two demographically similar urban areas of Texas and California. About half of offenders were placed on specialty probation while the other half were on regular probation.

For the first year of the study, researchers interviewed probationers and their officers three times. Next, they obtained FBI arrest records to assess which probationers had re-offended in up to a five-year period. All probationers were followed for at least two years.

In their analysis, researchers found that the odds of re-arrest for people on regular probation were more than two-and-a-half times higher than for those on special probation at two years, and that the benefits of specialty probation lasted for up to five years.

“Specialty probation holds substantial promise as a method for reducing mass incarceration for people with mental illness,” Skeem said.

Moreover, she added, “prisons and jails spend two to three times more money on offenders with mental illness but rarely see improvements in public safety. This is one of the reasons that more than 375 U.S. counties have joined the Stepping Up Initiative, a national effort to reduce the number of people with mental illness in jails.”