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Probation Office Seeking Grant To Assist In New State Bail Reform Assessments
Updated September 20, 2016 11:43 AM
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(BEDFORD) - Lawrence County Probation Director Chad Shew requested the commissioners Tuesday morning to allow him to apply for a grant to hire a pretrial officer for community corrections.

The person would screen inmates held at the Lawrence County Jail and report back to the probation department and the judges in assessing if an inmate is a low, medium or high risk arrestee. That information will be used to determine if they should be released without bail or placed on house arrest pending or remain in jail without bond pending their court hearing.

If awarded the grant, it would pay the salary for that new officer.

The new position is needed because the Indiana Supreme Court is working to reform Indiana's bail system.

Chief Justice Loretta Rush explained, "The reforms are designed to provide for public safety and protect the presumption of innocence. The prompt release of arrestees who do not pose a public safety risk is associated with reduced recidivism and lower jail expenses."

The Court is encouraging the use of evidence-based risk assessment tools to inform pretrial release decisions. If an arrestee does not pose a substantial flight risk or danger to the community, the arrestee should be released without bail. There are exceptions, such as murder charges or if the arrestee is on probation. The rule can be found online.

The reforms are based on recommendations from defense counsel, probation officers, lawmakers, and trial court judges.

Indiana Public Defender Council Executive Director Larry Landis calls the rule a significant improvement to the bail system. Landis said, "The current system confines people pretrial if they cannot afford to post bail even if they are neither a flight risk nor a public safety threat. The new rule will reduce unnecessary, unjust, and expensive pretrial confinement without jeopardizing public safety."

The rule is effective immediately for Allen, Bartholomew, Hamilton, Hendricks, Jefferson, Monroe, St. Joseph, Starke, and Tipton counties and will be expanded to all courts January 1, 2018. Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council Executive Director David Powell explained, "Prosecutors encourage the implementation of fair pretrial procedures that serve to protect the public and we look forward to feedback from the nine pilot counties regarding implementation of the rule to continue developing sound policy."

The rule continues the successful statewide work known as Evidence Based Decision Making (EBDM). EBDM is a criminal justice improvement initiative for both juveniles and adults by local and state leaders to create a safer and healthier Indiana and ensure criminal justice decisions are informed by data.

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