September 18, 2019

Pretrial Expert Criticizes New Tool Indiana Courts Will Use

Article origination IPBS-RJC
The Monroe County Courthouse. - Barbara Brosher/WTIU

The Monroe County Courthouse.

Barbara Brosher/WTIU

A leading expert on the pretrial system sharply criticized a new tool Indiana courts are expected to use next year.

State courts are expected to begin using pretrial risk assessments in 2020.

A new rule taking effect Jan. 1 says courts should use a tool known as IRAS to help determine whether criminal defendants should be released before trial or where to set bail amounts. The risk assessments examine, for instance, demographics, criminal history and mental health status.

But American Bail Coalition executive director Jeff Clayton says those tools don’t work. He points to its use in Kentucky.

“If anything, it made the situation worse," Clayton says. "It had a trivial impact on the jail populations and resulted in a slight increase in failure to appear and a slight increase in new crimes while on bail.”

But Monroe County Judge Mary Ellen Diekhoff used the risk assessments as part of a pilot program. She insists the tool doesn’t replace the judge’s discretion.

“What it does do is assist with information and it also assists with discussions,” Diekhoff says.

The state is holding a pretrial summit next month to help justice system officials learn about the new tools.

Contact Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

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