(BEDFORD) – The following is a statement from Lawrence County Prosecutor Sam Arp on a new court rule taking effect on January 1.
As your Prosecutor, I believe one of my most important roles is as a public safety official. The Prosecutor is challenged to seek justice for victims and to promote community safety by keeping our worst offenders in jail or prison.
Over the last several years, there has been a movement nationally to decrease penalties for low level, non-violent, drug offenses and Indiana followed the lead of states like California and did just that in 2014.
The results of criminal code reform and this national movement have been a myriad of poor statistics, including increased rates of homelessness, higher violent crime rates, higher child abuse, and neglect rates, and higher child fatalities. The Opioid epidemic also contributed to these higher rates.
Most notably and close to home for Lawrence County was a change that required level 6 felons to be sentenced to local jails, rather than the Indiana Department of Correction. Since most drug penalties were reduced by 90%, and many to level 6 felonies in HEA 1006, local jails statewide are now bursting at the seams.
In 2018, before I took office, the Lawrence County jail was not immune to overcrowding and had reached an all-time high of over 200 inmates. Since I
began my term as Prosecutor on January 1, 2019, my administration has made it a priority to be conscientious of the daily jail population while weighing potential impacts on public safety. Chief Deputy Prosecutor Robert ‘Bob’ Cline has taken on the responsibility of monitoring daily rates and making recommendations on possible reductions. As of November 24, 2019, the population was down 34% to 132, This reduction saves the Lawrence County taxpayers thousands of dollars each day with no reduction in public safety.
As part of the continuing trend to be more lenient toward low level, non-violent offenders and to address the issue of jail overcrowding caused by criminal code reform, the Indiana Supreme Court also instituted a change to the court rules and soon thereafter, the General Assembly made it the law of the land, to take effect January 1, 2020. This change requires the court to conduct a six (6) question risk assessment upon arrest, which is intended to assess the risk of reoffending and risk of failing to appear for subsequent court hearings. Depending on the results of the assessment, the Judge can either set bond or release the defendant without bond.
As your Prosecutor, I took an oath and am bound to uphold the rules and
procedures of the court, the United States Constitution, the Indiana Constitution, and Indiana law. Since taking office my administration has worked closely with the Judicial Staff of the Lawrence County Superior Courts I & II to be proactive with the implementation of these new Judicial mandates. Per the new rule, after January 2020, all defendants will be assessed using this tool and the court, not the Prosecutors office will consider the results when making bond decisions or releasing individuals to their own recognizance pending trial.
I want to assure the public that I will always do everything I can to keep dangerous individuals and those who pose a risk to the safety and security of others in jail for as long as the law will allow. I also encourage victims and the public to notify the court and/or my office with any questions or concerns about this change, particularly if you find it impacts you directly. As we begin to implement this law, as we are required to do, I will do so with a strong voice for victims and public safety.