Officials in Porter County and 10 other Indiana counties are testing a risk-assessment program to determine whether people who have been arrested should be required to post bail while awaiting trial.
Melanie Golumbeck, Porter County’s chief adult probation officer, said Indiana’s pretrial release program that launched in March 2017 evaluates jail inmates’ ability to pay. The program is part of a nationwide effort to decrease legal inequalities that allow people with money to bond out of jail, while those of limited means remain behind bars. The evaluation determines the likelihood the inmates will return to court for hearings or reoffend during the pretrial period, she said.
Douglas Lang, supervisor of the Porter County pretrial program, said the assessments usually occur within 24 hours of arrest.
The program is set to go statewide next year.
Porter County conducted around 600 assessments during each of the pilot program’s first two years, and has conducted 390 assessments so far this year, Golumbeck said. Evaluators provide risk scores based on an individual’s criminal history and outcomes of the Indiana Risk Assessment System-Pretrial Assessment Tool. Judges use those scores to decide whether to reduce bond or allow defendants to be released on their own recognizance.
Porter Superior Judge Jeffrey Clymer, whose courtroom is one of three in the county included in the pilot program, said the chief priority of each judge is public safety.
“If an arrestee has had an evidence-based risk assessment and is not a flight risk or danger to anyone, pretrial release conditions can be imposed specifically for each arrestee, such as drug testing and evaluation as well as periodic meetings with pretrial release officers,” Clymer said. “This is consistent with the right to bail and the presumption of innocence while simultaneously protecting the public.”
Porter County Sheriff Dave Reynolds, who has been involved in the pilot program from the beginning, said it has eased overcrowding in jails and the supervision element of the program has actually made the county safer, countering critics who suggested it was evidence that the state is soft on crime.