Indianapolis clergy wants county jail to drop bail

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– No more bail at the jail. The Indianapolis Congregation Action Network is urging the mayor to include ending the current “money bail” policy in his plan to fix inmate overcrowding.

At a forum on Indy’s northeast side, people rallied together to discuss the disproportionate impact of bond on poor people.

“A lot of poor and black people are suffering from going to jail and not being able to pay the bails that are being set for them,” said Doris Hill.

Hill knows that experience all too well. She said her troubles began when she forgot to pay a speeding ticket.

“When I went down to pay the ticket, I was arrested,” remembers Hill. “I was told that I had a warrant out for my arrest and was immediately locked up. No questions asked.”

A bond was set for Hill the next day. For the mother of four, handing over that kind of cash was out of the question.

“I could not pay the bond,” said Hill as she laughed sadly. “I didn’t know if I had enough money to pay the ticket.”

Several people shared similar stories at the hearing for criminal justice reform.

Clergy also shared statistics. Forty-five percent of those found innocent or whose charges are dismissed spent one to six months in the Marion County Jail awaiting those results.

“We don’t want to continue to incarcerate individuals that don’t need to be there,” said Deputy Mayor David Hampton, who spoke on behalf of the mayor’s office.

He pressed on, pointing out that many of the people who don’t need to be in jail are mentally ill.

“The number one mental health provider in the city of Indianapolis is who?” Hampton asked the crowd.

“The jail!” people shouted from the crowd, urging Hampton on.

“The Marion County Jail,” he confirmed. “Forty percent of the inmates there right now are mentally ill.”

Supporters here feel that in addition to dropping the “money bail” policy, making sure adequate treatment is provided to the mentally ill and addicts is also important.

They, along with staff from the mayor’s office, discussed several policy recommendations for reducing Marion County’s high incarceration rate, the highest of any similarly-sized Midwestern county.

All of the ideas are included in a comprehensive study on the IndyCAN! Website.

The recommendations are accompanied by relevant statistics, including information on other states or cities that have successfully dropped bail.

Deputy Mayor Hampton is taking many of the ideas back to the task force working to address the county’s jail overcrowding.

Hampton reiterated the taskforce is expected to give recommendations to Mayor Joe Hogsett by the end of the year.

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