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1/14/2019 11:00:00 AM
Madison County Jail again above its rated capacity of 207 inmates

Ken de la Bastide, Herald Bulletin City and County Government Reporter

ANDERSON – After months of having significantly fewer incarcerations in Madison County, the numbers are back on the rise.

The Madison County Sheriff’s Department reported Friday there were 397 people in custody either at the county jail, with the Madison County Community Corrections or being housed in other counties.

There were 285 inmates in the jail on Thursday in a facility with a capacity of 207. In September, there were 227. 

Sheriff Scott Mellinger said that between January and July of last year the average number of inmates was 280 per day.

Commissioner John Richwine and Ashley Hopper, then county attorney, brought all the stakeholders together to determine where the current system was lacking when it came to processing court cases.

The county started working with consultants from the National Institute of Corrections to implement best practices to reduce the number of people in the jail.

Madison Circuit Court Division 4 Judge David Happe said the increased jail population was partly a result of a number of warrant requests at the end of 2018 for violations.

He said with Andrew Hopper being elected judge of Madison Circuit Court Division 3 a number of cases are being transferred to other courts.

Officials in the pilot bond program establish their own programs, Happe said.

“They are set on local priorities,” he said. “This is a step in the right direction. Madison County will set up our own standards based on a consensus of the prosecutor’s office, judges and sheriff.”

Mellinger said a pilot program was started in several Indiana counties in 2016 to implement local bond reform.

“Every offender is scored based on their current charges, criminal history and if the crime was violent,” he said. “If they score below a center number they are released on their own recognizance.”

Mellinger said after two years there has been a significant decline in the jail population and less than 10 percent of those charges commit another crime or fail to appear for a court hearing.

He said the recent upsurge is because there is no longer a priority to keep the number of inmates at a reasonable level.

“It’s possible we have reached the saturation point,” Mellinger said. “There are very few people that meet the criteria to be released on their own recognizance.”

Commissioner Richwine said Friday the county is meeting with the state court administrator to establish local standards similar to other Indiana counties. 

“I haven’t looked at why the numbers are up,” Richwine said.

Last year the commissioners wanted to hire a case manager to track the number of inmates in the jail, but funding for the position was denied by the Madison County Council.

The state pilot program began in 2016 after the Indiana Supreme Court issued Criminal Rule 26, which encouraged state courts to release low-risk offenders without bail.

Judges still have the latitude to set bail or hold offenders if they are deemed a flight risk or danger to themselves or others.

To assess offenders, each pilot county utilizes the Indiana Risk Assessment System Pretrial Assessment Tool, referred to as IRAS-PAT. Counties may use additional assessment tools.

Trained staff administer the IRAS-PAT during a brief face-to-face interview with an offender in jail following an arrest. The assessment includes seven questions on criminal history, employment, housing stability and drug use.

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