In the September 3, 2016 issue of the Indy Star, a small article highlighted a serious criminal justice reform effort underway in Indianapolis spearheaded by INDYCAN, a non-profit focusing on social justice. The issue of money bail has been in national headlines recently as the Justice Department seeks a ruling to drastically reform the practice that is seen by many as discriminatory against minorities and the poor. INDYCAN is advocating for a change to the money bail system currently in place in Marion County. One victim of the Marion County money bail system is Doris Hill whose story was told in the article. Hill was at the Sheriff’s office trying to pay her late speeding ticket, but Hill instead spent two days in jail over bail before having her charges dropped.
Unfortunately, Doris Hill is not the only resident of Indianapolis who has faced jail time over money bail. We here at Fathers & Families are keenly aware of the negative effects money bail can have on an individual trying to better themselves and overcome steep odds. Out of the men we serve, 80% have criminal records and have experience with the money bail system. The money bail system can cause people to be detained unnecessarily, and it disproportionately affects people of color and people who live in poverty-stricken areas. When this happens it can delay, end or otherwise impede employment. It is also a financial burden on someone who is most likely already stretched paper-thin. Unnecessary incarceration cause by money bail can also pose a legal burden on a single father trying to keep up on child support payments. Without a doubt the worst possible outcome is a delay in medical treatment that can and has resulted in death while in custody, oftentimes over very small offences.
This is why at Fathers & Families we offer wrap-around support for all of our clients to achieve self-sufficiency and to break the cycles of poverty prevalent in the communities we serve. By offering job placement we offer a path to financial security. By having a collaborative relationship with the Child Support Prosecutor’s office we decrease their chances of child support violations and ensure uninterrupted support to the child. By offering substance abuse counseling and classes we lower their chances of being involved in drug use and drug crimes. By offering individual and family counseling and through our Fatherhood Development Workshop we help lower instances of domestic abuse and foster healthy family relations for our clients.
The participants we serve have many obstacles to overcome; some of these are generational. Money bail is one generational obstacle that we would like to see ended now. We applaud and support INDYCAN in their efforts to reform the money bail system. INDYCAN has partnered with the Indiana Public Defender council, probation officers, and lawmakers, to bring this issue into the public eye and, perhaps more importantly, the eyes of the court. The Indiana Supreme Court recently decided to majorly overhaul the money bail system in Indiana. According to reporting from WBIW News the reform calls for the “prompt release of arrestees who do not pose a public safety risk” and are not on probation. Chief Justice Loretta Rush says the reform “protects presumption of innocence…and reduces recidivism and lowers jail costs”. Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett has announced a task force that will make criminal justice reform proposals. We hope the task force will take this issue seriously, as implementation of this reform will not take place in Marion County until 2018, but would positively affect the lives of the people we serve now.
*If you or anyone you know could benefit from any of the services outlined above please contact Fathers & Families at (317) 921-5935 on the web at fatherresource.org or on facebook.