May 25, 1971.
On this day, the IUPUI News Bureau released a blurb to news outlets extolling the Indianapolis Bail Project. The project involved senior law students in the Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis working under the direction of law professor James B. Droege. Together, they interviewed persons arrested shortly before by city law-enforcement officers and brought to city jails for various non-violent misdemeanor charges. As many prisoners could not afford to post bonds to gain their release prior to trials, prisoners would languish in jail sometimes for months. After screening by the law students, arrested persons were promptly released, often within an hour of arrest, without bond on promise of appearing at trial.
As Professor Droege explained, the project relieved jail overcrowding, saved on the cost of housing, guarding, and feeding prisoners, and allowed charged persons to continue to work in their jobs, pay their taxes, and support their families. Moreover, he explained, "This upholds the integrity of the judicial process. If confinement to jail is a deserved punishment, then it should be given by the judge after guilt has been determined at trial, not before the trial merely because the prisoner cannot afford bond." Typically, half of those arrested for misdemeanor offenses had their charges dropped or were found not guilty. As most of those found guilty would be merely fined or given suspended sentences, imprisoning those who couldn't post bond was doubly unjust.
According to Droege, only 1.4 percent of the released prisoners failed to appear at trial.
The only persons unhappy with this program were bail bondsmen, who torpedoed a bill in the Indiana General Assembly to incorporate the project into the judicial system in Marion County.
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