Allen County’s pilot test sees success in allowing suspects awaiting trial to avoid jail

Local News

ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) — Indiana counties are preparing for a change to their court system. Criminal Rule 26, which will allow some residents the opportunity to wait for their upcoming trial at home rather than sit in jail, will take effect next month.

“Criminal Rule 26 is an order from the Indiana Supreme Court to determine whether someone is a flight risk or whether they are a danger to the community, ” Allen Superior Court Judge David Zent said. “We do that by using a risk assessment tool and an evidence based risk assessment tool. ”

The risk assessment will apply to trial court judges in their criminal cases to improve pre-trial practices. Factors judges would take into account while using the new assessment would include criminal and drug history, education, how long you’ve lived in the community just to name a few.

So now, instead of setting money bail amounts, judges could use the risk assessment and send the person home.

“It’s important to know that everyone is looking at the safety of our community,” Allen Superior Court Judge David Zent said. “What we found is that the system does work. The risk assessment tool does work. The people that are deemed low risk come back to court and they don’t commit new crimes while they are released. The people that are high risk, those are the ones we really have to look at whether it is safe to let them out of the jail without paying cash or money bound.”

The new rule was enacted by the Indiana Supreme Court back in 2016. Since then, 11 pilot counties have been testing the rule, including Allen County. Soon all 92 counties will be using Criminal Rule 26.

So far pilot counties, like Allen, have found success in the new rule, even helping the Allen County Jail with overcrowding.

“We have definitely have helped with the numbers (of the jail),” Judge Zent said. “There have been over 600 people that have been released over the past three years and those are people who would have spent one day in jail or several months. Those were people the sheriff didn’t have to account for and therefore saving the taxpayers money.”

Other Indiana pilot counties are Bartholomew, Grant, Hamilton, Hendricks, Jefferson, Monroe, Porter, St. Joseph, Starke, and Tipton.

The transition to the new system starts on October 1. All Indiana courts must transition over before the new law goes into effect Jan. 1, 2020.

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