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Indiana Public Media on 01/06/2020 by Associated Press
A new Indiana rule requiring that booked inmates be assessed to determine risks or benefits of releasing them before trial is expected to eventually reduce overcrowding at the state’s county jails, criminal justice officials said.
Criminal Rule 26, which set Indiana’s new pretrial release protocols, was adopted by the Indiana Supreme Court in 2017 but it didn’t take effect statewide until Jan. 1.
The new system requires that inmates be released on bond or recognizance unless they present a “substantial risk of flight or danger to themselves or others.” It also mandates that an evidence-based risk assessment be used to help make that determination.
The rule’s expansion to all 92 Indiana counties comes after 11 counties volunteered to try it out under a pilot program that began in 2016.
In one of those pilot counties, northeastern Indiana’s heavily populated Allen County, the approach has aided low-risk offenders who don’t have the resources to post bond, said Jeff Yoder, executive director of Allen Superior Court’s criminal division services.
“It’s allowed a number of low risk folks to be released instead of sitting in jail for days or weeks on end because they can’t afford a bond,” Yoder told the Post-Tribune.
The new rule, which requires collaboration between local criminal justice entities, has the potential to decrease jail populations, but it varies from county to county, said Mary Kay Hudson, executive director of the Indiana Office of Court Services. She said the required risk assessments do not replace a judge’s discretion.
“It is designed to be additional information to inform the court’s decision. The judge always retains discretion,” Hudson said.