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National Report Gives Indiana Failing Grade For Pretrial Justice

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Photo: Steve Burns

Criminal Rule 26 asks counties to use an evidence-based pre-trial risk assessment to determine whether someone should be released without bail.

A new report gives Indiana a failing grade for the level of justice provided to those awaiting trial.

The Pretrial Justice Institute’s report grades states on three factors: their pretrial detention rate, their use of a validated pretrial assessment and whether they’ve eliminated monetary bail. Indiana scored poorly in all three categories, which Executive Director of the Indiana Public Defender Council Larry Landis says isn’t surprising. He says because Indiana still uses monetary bail, many people are unnecessarily detained ahead of trial.

“Money bail doesn’t keep dangerous people in jail, it keeps poor people in jail,” Landis says.

The report doesn’t take into account pretrial reforms that are in progress, including a pilot program underway in Indiana. Eleven counties are participating and using a risk-based assessment to determine whether someone should be released before trial instead of depending on money. The program is supposed to go statewide in 2020.

While it’s a step in the right direction, Landis says the report highlights the need for more reforms in Indiana. Specifically, he would like to see an agency formed solely to deal with pretrial issues in Indiana.

“That agency ought to be responsible for interviewing everybody who is arrested and make an assessment as to are they indigent and need appointment of counsel and administer a risk-assessment tool,” Landis says.

Some other states, including Kentucky, have a statewide pretrial services division.

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