Pilot program studies need for bail reform in Allen County

(Photo Supplied/Indiana News Service)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Indiana News Service): While advocates are calling for reforms in the criminal justice system across the nation, Indiana is taking some steps in that direction.

The Indiana Supreme Court recently approved reforms to the state’s bail system, including the prompt release of those arrested that don’t pose a public safety risk.

Allen Superior Court Judge John Surbeck is part of the Committee to Study Evidence-Based Pretrial Release, formed in 2013. He concedes that a more a liberal policy of pretrial release runs counter to the practice in the U.S. court system of requiring money before releasing someone, but he says any change would protect the presumption of innocence.

“People in jail under arrest are innocent, and yet we are forcing them to pay sometimes lots of money to get out of jail when they are innocent,” he says.

Surbeck says the committee found if an arrestee doesn’t pose a substantial flight risk or danger to the community, that person should be released without bail.

There are exceptions, such as murder or treason charges, or if the arrestee is on probation.

Indiana currently has nine counties participating in the pilot project to eliminate bail for some people. Allen County is one of them, and Surbeck says other states including Kentucky, Washington, Virginia and Colorado already have made reforms in the bail system and it’s working for them.


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