GPS Monitoring in Marion County: investigating reoffenses and who is put on pre-trial release

Indianapolis Area Crime

INDIANAPOLIS — We continue our deep dive into pre-trial release and GPS monitoring in Marion County after at least two people were murdered in July, allegedly by people wearing monitors and out on bond.

There are roughly 3,400 people on GPS monitoring and home detention, which includes GPS monitoring, in Marion County between pre-trial release and post-conviction sentences. This does not include people who only use alcohol monitoring devices.

Chief probation officer Christine Kerl of the Marion Superior Court Probation department said those awaiting trial can go anywhere, except any place restricted by a judge or judicial officer.

“Otherwise, they’re able to move around the city, community, county, whatever restrictions the court may impose, at their own will as long as they do stay away from those areas, which are restricted,” Kerl explained.

When deciding on pre-trial release, Kerl explained risk assessments are done by an officer trained to conduct the Indiana Risk Assessment System. Those risk assessments look at the likelihood someone will commit a new crime or return to court.

“To me, we have to make sure that those assessments are accurate, they’re done right, that we have the investment, we have the tools and the staffing available if the court does place them on release,” Kerl said. “Human behavior plays in. There’s no way that I can guarantee that anyone whether they are in custody or out of custody will or will not make choices that then harm others.”

Kerl explained the three primary goals of pre-trial services is “in line with best practices throughout the country is to maximize release, maximize public safety and maximize court appearance.” Kerl said sometimes her staff does make a recommendation to the judge about release.

“Our [release] matrix does not have a built-in absolutely not, no way,” Kerl explained. “We have had staff that have expressed, ‘your honor, they have been on this before, this may not be something that would be in the best service for this individual to appear or for public safety.’”

This week, we highlighted the murder cases against Marcus Garvin, accused of murdering and dismembering his girlfriend Christie Holt while on pre-trial release for a different stabbing, and Jahion Jarrett, accused of murdering a Lyft driver, Hurts Presendieu, during a robbery and dumping his body behind an east side church near 25th and Post last month.

Kerl would not comment on pending cases but said all risk assessments must be done accurately and thoroughly.

“Are we ensuring that the right individuals are on the devices and if so, if that is the court’s intention then what is it do, we need to be sure that we’re following through on,” Kerl explained.

Outcomes of Pre-Trial Release Monitoring and Post-Conviction Monitoring

Kerl said since September 2019, 95% of those on pre-trial supervision did not pick up new charges. But that does leave 5% who do. Kerl said she does empathize with those who are victimized.

“Sheer regret for what they’ve experienced, but to rest assured and let them know that we, based upon what we actually can predict to the best of our ability with risk assessments and tools, it’s not my gut, it’s something that’s been proven to be predictive of that, we are doing everything we possibly can to ensure that it’s applied correctly and accurately, and if indeed there is an issue or concern that occurs with that individual that we know about that we are following up on those individuals,” Kerl said.

Marion County Community Corrections Executive Director Scott Hohl provided data analysis from June 16, 2021. The analysis reviewed two data sets: homicide suspects and victims from March 2018-February 2020 and non-fatal shootings victims and suspects from January 2019-February 2020.

MCCC reviewed whether the people were under the supervision of their agency at the time of the incident were involved in homicides or non-fatal shootings.

MCCC said they served a total of 22,645 people during the period from March 2018 to February 2020. The 27 people involved in homicides during that time make up 0.12% of people they worked with.

For non-fatal shootings, MCCC served 14,731 clients during the review period from January 2019 to February 2020. With 16 clients involved, that is 0.11% of people assigned to MCCC during that time.

“Certainly, we do have violent offenses, I’m not going to say we don’t,” Hohl said. “Obviously we have a significant number of domestic violence cases on our caseload, but the majority of our clients, the overwhelming majority of our clients, are nonviolent offenses.”

According to a report from the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform analyzing Indy’s violence problem, 12% of victims and 15% of suspects were on active community supervision at the time of the homicide. Hohl said that number includes people on parole from the Department of Corrections, federal probation, community corrections and probation. 44% of those involved in a homicide from March 1, 2018-February 29, 2020 were either on active community supervision or were at some point monitored by MCCC or the county probation department.

The Cost of GPS Monitoring

Marion County contracts with Track Group for its monitoring devices. Those on pre-trial release pay a fee of $5 a day. Kerl said 1% of those clients on GPS monitoring for pre-trial release are ruled indigent by the court.

If someone cannot pay the $5 fee, it comes out of the Marion Superior Court Probation Department’s budget. The only people who pay a fee while on pre-trial are those required to wear a GPS device, which is about 1,500 people.

Kerl said before each person’s hearing, her team does a compliance summary which includes whether the defendant has met all requirements and made the payments.

“Hope is by having that brought to the court and to everyone’s attention is the court does have the opportunity to then review whether or not that device is still necessary,” Kerl explained.

Hohl said those on post-conviction monitoring can pay anywhere from $0 to $14, depending on whether the courts ruled a person indigent or the financial analysis done by Community Corrections shows they cannot afford the $14. Hohl said on average, people pay around $7 per day.

Track Group charges Marion County Community Corrections $3.15 per GPS monitor and $5 per monitor and alcohol piece.

“If what we collect is under what our monthly bill is for the number of devices that we are utilizing, then that is made up for by tax dollars,” Hohl explained.

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