INDIANAPOLIS — Marion County judges say the Bail Project does not receive special treatment from the court when it comes to their work in our city.
A 2018 letter, signed by four Marion County judges, agrees all deposits and bonds will be returned back to the nonprofit agency at the conclusion of the case, and not subject to deduction for any costs imposed by the court, unless the bond is forfeited or the person fails to appear. Judge Amy Jones said that puts the Bail Project in line with bail bond agencies and other people posting bonds.
For clarity, Jones said bond agencies get back what they paid after the case concludes. A person who the judge declares indigent also does not have to pay fines, fees, and restitution – if the judge makes that decision.
The Bail Project said they do not frequently look at the probable cause affidavits in each case when selecting who they will pay bond for. Instead, they rely on MyCase information and failure to appear allegations, information from the public defender and answers from the clients themselves on what their needs are to address root causes of their issues and help prevent more crimes from being committed.
Judge Jones said anecdotally she has noticed a change since 2018 in the level of commitment from the Bail Project to connecting people with wrap-around services like they promised, and showing up to court appearances.
In the 2018 letter, the judge ordered quarterly updates from the Bail Project to the court. Judge Jones said the program wasn’t providing updates regularly, and the last one the court received was the end of 2019 before receiving a report on November 22 for all of 2020 and the first three quarters of 2021.
Jones said she and the other judges will be evaluating this recent data provided by the Bail Project, and whether it is delivering on its commitment to Marion County. Jones said they will investigate whether the organization is giving referrals for wrap-around services and connecting people to those and whether the people bailed out by the project are getting charged in new cases.
Judge Jones said at the time when the Bail Project came to town, they were filling a pre-trial void not operating in the county at the time. Specifically, they were to provide referrals to wrap-around services for the people they bailed out. Now, pre-trial services handles that for those on pre-trial release.
Judge Jones said the Bail Project has never had an obligation to the court to provide updates on the clients they are working with, but pre-trial services are managed by court employees so they are obligated to provide updates on everyone they work with.
The Bail Project said their revolving bail fund is funded through donations. The only time they do not receive the money they paid for bail back is if a person does not show up for court.