Holcomb signs bill creating local JRACs for criminal justice reform

A bill to enhance criminal justice reform efforts at the local level is now law in Indiana.

Gov. Eric Holcomb on Thursday signed House Enrolled Act 1068. The bill was designated as an emergency, which means it was effective immediately upon the governor’s signature.

Authored by Rep. Randy Frye, R-Greensburg, HEA 1068 calls for the creation of county or regional justice reinvestment advisory councils. Modeled after the statewide Justice Reinvestment Advisory Council, the local bodies will bring together criminal justice stakeholders across multiple disciplines to study and implement local reforms.

Frye described the legislation as the next step out of the 2019 Indiana Jail Overcrowding Task Force report. But stakeholders say the measure will go beyond jail populations to address wholesale issues such as why citizens are incarcerated and how long they remain in jail.

“In some counties, when a person got arrested they went to jail, in others they went through a pre-incarceration assessment that determined if they needed to be in jail or could go home on some sort of work release. There are all kinds of things — community corrections, home arrest, released on your own recognizance,” Frye previously told Indiana Lawyer.  “Counties are not using all of those options. … What the bill does is pretty much requires every county or group of counties if they partner together to consider all options at the time of incarceration.”

The local JRACs will be tasked with compiling annual reports and submitting them to the statewide body, which will then use the data to make statewide policy recommendations. The state JRAC will also be available to provide technical and other assistance to the local councils.

Multiple counties can come together to form a regional JRAC, and existing community corrections advisory boards can fulfill the duties laid out in HEA 1068.

The bill is an extension of the criminal code reforms implemented in Indiana in 2014 and 2015.

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