September 26, 2002 Indianapolis Star editorial

Put politics aside; fix justice system

September 26, 2002
Our position is: The judges' plan to end early inmate release may exacerbate the criminal justice crisis.

Just when the City-County Council thought it had fixed the jail overcrowding problem, if only temporarily, Marion County's judges are poised to halt all early release orders, raising the possibility of overcrowding again.

If approved by the court's executive committee on Monday, the action could land the Marion County Sheriff's Department back in federal court, where Judge Sarah Evans Barker has threatened heavy fines if the lockup and jail exceed population limits.

It's time for all agencies involved in the criminal justice system to start discussing a long-term solution. The Star editorial page and WTHR News hope the process will begin in earnest on Tuesday, Oct. 1, when we host a community summit on public safety at 7 p.m. at the Old Centrum, corner of 12th Street and Central Avenue.

Most everyone agrees that potentially violent felons should not be released to maintain population caps. At the same time, a blanket ban on early release seems counterproductive.

The City-County Council's budget resolution adopted earlier this month took a stab at addressing the problems. Money was included for a new arrest processing center and more jail beds.

So here we are: The county's jail and court facilities aren't large enough to handle the traffic. Fines loom to penalize the city for overcrowding. The judges have vowed to end early release. And the council has just passed a budget that was supposed to solve the problem for at least a year.

Without delay, answers must be found to prevent two unacceptable practices: early release and overcrowding.