INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A common concern during the coronavirus pandemic has been the plight of Indiana’s inmates.
It appears the state is now ready to take action—allowing the release of certain individuals on the local level.
A letter signed by representatives of all three branches of state government—Gov. Eric Holcomb, Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray, House Speaker Todd Huston and Chief Justice Loretta Rush—acknowledges the public health emergency in Indiana and gives local jurisdictions leeway in releasing certain offenders.
The letter noted that inmates, juveniles, staff and service providers live and work in confined spaces, making facilities a potential breeding ground for coronavirus spread:
With inmates, juveniles, staff, and service providers living and working in confined spaces, there is enhanced potential for COVID-19 to enter a facility and spread. This potential, however, can be mitigated and reduced through implementation of aggressive proactive measures such as those taken at state correctional facilities. But at the local and county level, while Indiana’s sheriffs have a duty to provide medical care to those in their custody, the resources and ability to treat and quarantine infected individuals are often limited and more difficult.
The letter offered this advice for communities and their judges, sheriffs and county officials:
They should review the current facility population to properly identify which low-risk, non-violent juveniles and inmates, if any, may be re-evaluated and released safely into their communities under pretrial, probation, or community corrections supervision.
The letter said this was not a question of “being soft on crime” but rather “a matter of need in a time of a widespread public health emergency affecting our entire state, at the local level.”
The letter stressed that no “Indiana-size solution” would fit all locations and said releasing certain offenders would ease the strain on local resources and sheriff’s departments that provide medical care to inmates.