Pretrial release project to test assessment tool

The Indiana Supreme Court is preparing to test the viability of allowing certain offenders to be released pretrial without having to pay a bail.

Ten counties are interested in participating in the pilot project that will test the effectiveness of a risk assessment tool, according to a just-released December status report from the Indiana Supreme Court Committee to Study Evidence-Based Pretrial Release. The project will use the tool to identify the defendants mostly likely to flee if released before their trials.

Teams from the interested counties – Allen, Bartholomew, Hamilton, Hendricks, Jefferson, Monroe, Porter, St. Joseph, Starke and Tipton – were introduced to the evidence-based pretrial released system during a workshop in November.  

The pilot project will use the Indiana Risk Assessment System – Pretrial Assessment Tool to determine the offenders who can be released pretrial and the conditions of their release. No date for starting the project has been set but the committee has been tasked with drafting the guidelines for the study and will make a status report to the court by Feb. 19.

Justice Brent Dickson has been the leading advocate for using alternatives to cash and surety bonds. He has said keeping people in jail because they cannot afford to post bail is unfair.

While he was chief justice, he assembled the committee to take a closer look at the issue of pretrial release.

The committee, chaired by Allen Superior Judge John Surbeck, has partnered with the National Institute of Corrections to develop the pilot project. In addition to the committee overseeing the project, the Indiana Judicial Center and NIC will provide assistance.

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