Pilot program aims to lower number of unconvicted in Allen County Jail

A program is working to lower the number of unconvicted inmates in the Allen County Jail, but not everyone is on board.

Posted: Nov. 15, 2017 11:41 PM
Updated: Nov. 15, 2017 11:49 PM

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT)- A program at the Allen County Jail aims to lower the number of unconvicted inmates, and they've already seen changes. 

Back in 2015, around 75 percent of inmates in the Allen County Jail were unconvicted and awaiting trial. That number is now down to 44 percent. 

"If someone's released prior to, or at the initial hearing, based on their own risk or own recognizance, versus someone who sits in jail a day or two, or three, or even more in order to find the money to pay their bond to be released, those folks are getting out much quicker," said Jeff Yoder of Criminal Division services. 

Judge John Surbeck was originally approached about the program back in 2014. It would allow unconvicted inmates who are not flight risks, and not a danger to themselves or others, to await their court date in other ways. 

The goals: maximize public safety, maximize court appearances, and maximizing release. 

"If you base release from jail on money, poor people are going to stay in jail, as opposed to the need to stay in jail for the safety of the community," Surbeck said. 

Similar programs are being conducted in ten other counties in Indiana, and have been successful in Washington D.C. and Kentucky. 

"Washington and Kentucky detain anywhere between six to 10 or 12 percent, and the rest are released, some on conditions. The research, the data collection on those jurisdictions are that those people who are released without having to post a money bond show up as well or in fact frequently better than do people who post money bonds," Surbeck said. 

The success of this program will also save tax payer dollars. According to Surbeck, it costs roughly 35 dollars a day to care for an inmate. 

"Every day someone is out of jail under pretrial status. That's a cost saving to the tax payer. Allen County is very fortunate to have other programming, problem solving courts, drug courts, restoration court. These programs also help folks remain out of the local jail and into programming," Yoder said. 

Not everyone is on board, though. Prosecuting Attorney, Michael McAlexander said there are other ways to maximize court appearance.

"The most effective tool we found to get people to show up to court is a program that they've been doing through pretrial services recently where they call people, get their cell phone numbers and call them a day or two before their hearing to remind them," McAlexander said. 

McAlexander believes there needs to be more research conducted. 

Surbeck said the only downside he can see is a negative effect on bail bondsmen, but one local bondsmen told WFFT after a roughly 25 percent loss, he doesn't anticipate any more changes. 

"The violent crimes, they're still putting bonds on those, and that's directive of the Supreme Court, so I think that's going to continue, and as long as that continues, bail bonds, and our business will be okay," said Jim Markey.

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