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Pretrial Expert Criticizes New Tool Indiana Courts Will Use

Barbara Brosher

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 how much to set bail amounts at. 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.

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.