Getting Bail Right in Indiana

JMI’s technical assistance to the Indiana State Courts

Bail determination is one of the most important decisions in a criminal case… Unfortunately, most justice systems in the United States lack the means to make effective and fair bail decisions. Judicial officers do not receive the information needed to make the determinations about release and detention, nor do they have a full statutory gamut of release and detention options to address the varying levels of risk within a defendant population. Even when options exist, most systems lack the structure to monitor released defendants, screen detained defendants regularly for release eligibility, and safeguard individual rights and public safety.

National Institute of Corrections
A Framework for Pretrial Justice: Essential Elements of an Effective Pretrial Services System and Agency

Improving bail decision-making is a priority for most of America’s justice systems. States and localities are reforming their bail practices to enhance fairness, reduce unnecessary detention costs, and protect public safety. Two common reforms are including the results of pretrial risk assessments in bail decisions and establishing local or state-wide pretrial services agencies. Seventeen states mandate localities to include risk assessment results in bail decisions or to study if the use of these assessments is feasible. Ten states, the District of Columbia, and the Federal system have created pretrial services agencies to serve all their court districts.

In Indiana, the Office of Court Services (IOCS) is responsible for implementing the state’s bail reforms, which include adoption of a state-wide pretrial risk assessment (the Indiana Risk Assessment System-Pretrial Assessment Tool) beginning in 2020 and managing 11 pilot pretrial services agencies state-wide. As part of its implementation strategy, the IOCS contracted with JMI to provide training on pretrial services programming to judicial officers, prosecutors, defenders, and pretrial and probation executives. On April 2-5, 2019, JMI staff participated in the Indiana State Pretrial Orientation Training, attended by over 200 stakeholders from across the state. Staff presented over the three-day period on the “essential elements” of high-functional pretrial services agencies and national bail reform efforts. Along with bail reform expert Timothy Schnacke, JMI staff also presented on the growing trend of mandating risk assessment results in bail decisions and the possible benefits and issues with this approach.

The IOCS is interested in a second Pretrial Orientation in June 2019, also with JMI staff as part of the training faculty. JMI also is considering making training on the essential elements of an effective bail system and pretrial services agency a contracted service to other jurisdictions.

Aimee WickmanGetting Bail Right in Indiana