UPDATE: Indiana courts aim to end bail for many people arrested

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Indiana is adopting new risk assessments to determine when people who have been arrested should be required to post bail while awaiting trial.

Under the rules the Indiana Supreme Court announced Wednesday most arrestees only would have to post money before being released if they're deemed a flight or public safety risk.

The changes take place immediately in nine Indiana counties that were part of a pilot program, but will expand to all Indiana courts by January 2018. They don't apply to people charged with murder or treason, or those who were on probation, parole or pre-trial release on another charge when charged with a new crime.

Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Loretta Rush said the "prompt release" of arrestees who do not pose a public safety risk is associated with lower county jail expenses and fewer instances where a person returns to criminal behavior.

"The reforms are designed to provide for public safety and protect the presumption of innocence," Rush said in a statement.

The new rules are based on recommendations by a committee of defense attorneys, probation officers, lawmakers, trial court judges and others the high court created in 2013 to study the state's bail system.

Larry Landis, executive director of the Indiana Public Defender Council, called the changes a significant improvement to the current system. He said Indiana's existing bail system confines people awaiting trial "if they cannot afford to post bail even if they are neither a flight risk nor a public safety threat."

"The new rule will reduce unnecessary, unjust, and expensive pretrial confinement without jeopardizing public safety," he said in a statement.

The changes are effective immediately in Allen, Bartholomew, Hamilton, Hendricks, Jefferson, Monroe, St. Joseph, Starke, and Tipton counties.

Allen Superior Court Judge John Surbeck told The Journal Gazette there are still places around Indiana where the use of jails to detain low-risk arrestees is commonplace. But he said Indiana does not have a constitutional authority for pretrial detention, except in cases of murder.

Surbeck said the courts have ended up doing that artificially, using money as the lock and key.

"We have a bunch of people sitting in jail who are presumed to be innocent who can't pay some money that can't get out on bond," he said.

David Powell, executive director of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, said the group encourages "the implementation of fair pretrial procedures that serve to protect the public."

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