State Leaders Tell Local Officials To Decide On Releasing County Jail Inmates

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Indiana Public Media on 04/03/2020 by Brandon Smith

State leaders from all three branches of government say local criminal justice officials should decide how to handle inmates in county jails during the COVID-19 crisis.

Gov. Eric Holcomb, Chief Justice Loretta Rush, Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) and House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) released a joint letter to local officials Friday.

That letter acknowledges the greater risk of COVID-19 spread within confined settings, including jails. And because of that risk, the state leaders say local judges, sheriffs and justice partners need to decide for themselves whether to release “low-risk, non-violent” juveniles and offenders into their communities – with supervision.

Those decisions, the letter says, should be based on local resources and capacity, local health decisions and community support, and the individual offenders themselves. “No Indiana-size solution would fit all,” the guidance says.

Holcomb, Rush, Bray and Huston said, “this is not a question of being soft on crime or criminals,” but about adjusting to the unprecedented public health crisis.

Indiana hasn’t taken any steps on early or temporary release from state-run prisons.