The practice in Indiana of detaining the accused who are awaiting trial but cannot afford bail is bloating already crowded jails and devastating communities. During the 2020 Session, House Bill 1076, introduced by Representative Cherrish Pryor, attempted to address this issue by advocating the use of cite and release programs for those awaiting trial for nonviolent misdemeanor charges.
The bill encouraged law enforcement to issue a court summons to an alleged perpetrator rather than automatically incarcerating them. Unfortunately, even when the mandatory cite and release policies were amended and made optional for policer officers, the bill died in committee.
When viewed through the lens of 2020, however, the call for criminal justice reform regarding the staggering cost of incarceration and its effect on communities, especially within the African American population, may make sense not only morally but fiscally as well.
The impact of pretrial detention in Indiana
The United States leads the world in incarceration, and in Indiana the total number of people who were in prison rose 261% between 1983 and 2015. Black people make up 10% of the state’s population but constituted 34% of the prison population in 2017.
In fact, in 2018 more than 50% of people imprisoned in county jails had not been convicted of a crime. They were awaiting trial and could not afford bail. In 2015, Indiana had the second highest pretrial prison population in the nation.
When people are sent to jail to await trial even for a short time, research has shown that the effects on their circumstances and their communities is devastating. They may lose their jobs, their housing situations and even their families.
Citation in lieu of arrest
Although all states allow the issuance of citations for some misdemeanor crimes or petty offenses, the cost of automatic booking and pretrial detainment not only to individuals and communities but to an already bloated criminal justice system is staggering.
When a citation is issued in lieu of arrest, booking and imprisonment, it allows people who are not a danger to society or a flight risk to return to their communities, take care of their families and continue paying taxes and being productive at work or school. This also frees up limited space in jails, reducing costs to the state.
For individuals who have been accused of a crime, having effective and aggressive legal counsel can help you build a strong case that will protect your rights and your freedoms.