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Monroe County Probation Pilot Program Could Be State Model

A cell door in the Monroe County jail, where the probation pilot program will be launched.

Monroe County officials are beginning work on a program they hope will reduce the number of people in the county’s jail and keep offenders from missing court appointment.

The Indiana Supreme Court is also keeping an eye the Monroe County program to see if it is an example of a system that can be expanded statewide.

Using a $40,000 grant from the Indiana Supreme Court, the Monroe Circuit Court Probation Department will start what’s called a pretrial release program.

It consists of a probation officer meeting with low-level offenders, screening them, then recommending whether they should be released to home detention or another community corrections program instead of being kept in jail while they wait for a trial.

The probation department will also invest in computer systems that will call offenders and remind them to show up to their court or probation appointments.

“Research has shown that for pretrial release programs, those kind of calls do improve the attendance, so we’re looking to have those automated so it will save staff time,” Monroe Circuit Court Chief Probation Officer Linda Brady says.

Brady says that also means the technology will be in place to continue the program after the money runs out.

In an order outlining the goals of the grant, Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Loretta Rush wrote that pretrial risk assessments “protect public safety, save significant taxpayer expenses for jail operations” and minimizes “wealth-based disparity of access to pretrial release,” among other benefits.

If the program is successful, the Indiana Supreme Court could implement similar measures across the state. Monroe County has two years to spend the grant money.

Probation officials, judges and other stakeholders plan to begin meetings in January to determine how to proceed.

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