In 2018, more than half of the people in Indiana county jails were awaiting trial and had not been convicted of a crime according to Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. Many of them are in jail simply because they cannot afford to buy their way out.
The consequences of pretrial detention are tremendous. After even a short stay in jail, research shows many people face significant collateral damage. People lose their jobs, their housing, and even their families. This happens so commonly that entire communities are impacted. For these reasons, pretrial detention should be limited to the rare case in which a person poses a serious, clear threat to another person.
In order to significantly reduce Indiana’s reliance on pretrial detention and to combat racial disparities in the criminal legal system, the Indiana elected officials must enact pretrial reform. This includes enhancing speedy trial rights, expanding access to counsel, and expanding mandatory cite and release policies.
During the 2020 Session here in Indiana, House Bill 1076 authored by Representative Cherrish Pryor, aimed to address issues with pretrial detention by promoting the use of cite and release programs. The bill encouraged police to issue a court summons for nonviolent misdemeanor crimes instead of hauling the alleged perpetrator off to jail, ultimately reducing unnecessary incarceration.
As introduced, H.B. 1076 would have made these cite and release policies mandatory, however that language was amended to make cite and release an option for police officers. Ultimately, the bill died in Died in the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee.
Given the massive jail overcrowding crisis Indiana is facing, we hope Indiana legislators will work to pass mandatory cite and release laws, as an alternative to booking, for as large a number of people as possible.