March 25, 2022

Corrections Corner / Deacon Marc Kellams

Pilot projects look at different ways to address bail

Deacon Marc KellamsIn last month’s Corrections Corner column, we discussed the bail system in Indiana, which is based primarily on an arrestee’s ability to post a cash bond or pay 10% of the bond to a bondsman as a premium. In other words, those who have money are released and those who don’t have money stay in jail. It had been that way until the last few years.

The Indiana Supreme Court, recognizing the inequity in this system of bail, has begun to address the issue by establishing pilot projects around the state to look at bail in a different way.

“Evidence-based practice” is a new way of looking at not only bail, but effective sentencing. The National Institute of Corrections explains it this way:

“Evidence-based practice is the objective, balanced and responsible use of current research and the best available data to guide policy and practice decisions, such that outcomes for consumers are improved. Evidence-based practice focuses on approaches demonstrated to be effective through empirical research rather than through anecdote or professional experience alone.”

Before the implementation of this new way of thinking, each judge did what he or she thought was best based on their own experience, both personal and professional, and by doing it “the way it’s always been done.”

Under the new system, a person, when arrested, is evaluated the next morning by a trained and certified professional using a tool called the Indiana Risk Assessment System (IRAS.) This tool allows the assessment information to follow adults through the continuum of the system. The IRAS looks primarily at two things: based upon the person’s history, are they likely to appear when ordered to do so? Are they a danger to the community if released?

When the arrestee appears in court the next day, a judge is provided a risk assessment which gives a recommendation that the person either be held in custody or be released either on telephonic notification, which means that the person is on their own subject to being notified by text message of their next appearance date, or on supervised release, where the person is kept track of and must meet with a probation officer on a regular basis. This type of release can also include requirements for treatment for alcohol or drug abuse and periodic random drug and alcohol screening.

Day reporting, which requires the person to appear each morning for substance testing, can include home detention, which requires the person to stay in their home, subject to supervised releases for employment, family obligations and other reasons. The judge is not required to follow the IRAS recommendations, but generally does. What a judge must ask themselves when a person is evaluated for bail is, “If this person had money, would they be released by now?”

Next month, we’ll evaluate how well this new system is working and how the legislature is pushing back.
 

(Deacon Marc Kellams is the Coordinator of Corrections Ministry for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. He can be reached at mkellams@archindy.org or call 317-592-4012.) †

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