The following is the third and final part of a three-part series on jail capacity, crime and punishment and personal liberty.
WARSAW — Kosciusko County’s sheriff says the majority of his counterparts throughout the state deal with the same issue he does in terms of trying to keep the population in the county jail at a manageable number. While he said he and other staffers have done what they can to help keep the number down, the majority of more extensive steps have to be done outside of his purview.
“Our job is to house them, making sure we feed them and take care of them,” said Sheriff Kyle Dukes.
County prosecutors and judges use tools such as community corrections, probation and work release to help alleviate jail overcrowding. But is it enough?
With each headline regarding a person arrested for drug charges, social media blows up with calls for lighter sentences or no jail time at all. Conversely, cases involving violent offenders who are released on their own recognizance, allowed to make bail or given the perceived “slap on the wrist” raise even more online ire.
Exploring Legalization And Following The Constitution
A recent report from the Huffington Post addressed top proposed solutions to jail overcrowding. In the report, the way drug offenses are handled made up two of the top 10 proposed fixes. The report called for shorter sentences for drug crimes, or even eliminating time behind bars at all for people caught self-medicating with currently illegal substances.
Some argue that taking these steps could help keep beds open for violent criminals. Recently in Kosciusko County, a man was released on his own recognizance after allegedly punching a pregnant woman and reportedly claiming to want to cause a miscarriage.
For residents who often cry foul when talking about the judicial system, Dukes and his jail commander Shane Coney both say that who stays and who goes in the jail is not up to them. And, officials with the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office say they are bound by a document more than two centuries old.
“Every person arrested for a crime in Indiana is presumed to be innocent until they are found guilty by a judge or jury,” said Deputy Prosecutor Brad Voelz. “After a person is arrested for a crime, and for that reason, the United States Constitution and the Indiana Constitution each require that reasonable bail be determined by the judge to assure the accused appears at future court dates.”
Voelz said more severe crimes warrant higher bonds and added that in the case of domestic battery, the law requires a cooling off period before an alleged offender can post bond. In the case of an arrested person being intoxicated, Voelz said the offender has to be deemed sober before they are allowed to post bail.
“If they don’t post a bond, the law requires that they be released after 48 hours unless formal charges have been filed and a bond determined before then,” Voelz said. “In extraordinary circumstances, the prosecutor asks for an extension. Sometimes, justice demands that more investigation be done before the prosecutor files formal charges. The investigation might require further witness interviews, crime scene analysis, blood or DNA testing, etc. When this occurs, the accused is released on his recognizance until the investigation is complete and formal charges, if warranted, are brought.”
What About Legalization?
Since Colorado made headlines by fully legalizing marijuana, other states have followed suit and to date, all but 15 states in the union have altered their stance on the plant. Indiana is one of the 15 states where marijuana is still completely illegal. But, what if all drugs were legalized? To many, this sounds extreme. But some argue that putting substances into the body is a personal liberty and only becomes the business of society when public safety becomes an issue — a stipulation that has been in place since the failed experiment of Prohibition was repealed in 1933. Anyone in the U.S over the age of 21 can drink as much alcohol as they want. They are regulated, however, once they decide to get behind the wheel on a public street or climb on the forklift at work.
Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, wrote in his paper From Fighting The Drug War To Protecting The Right To Use Drugs: Recognizing A Forgotten Liberty, “Individual liberty is the paramount political value.” Bandow said, citing Author John Stuart Mill, “Adults are entitled to ingest substances even if a majority views that decision as foolish.”
Bandow continued by saying the use of drugs should be seen as a freedom, just like most human actions. He added that drugs that have been made illegal are treated differently than some legal substances that have proven extremely harmful to humans, such as alcohol and tobacco.
“Illicit drugs are seen differently today,” Bandow said. “The dominance of scenic rhetoric, combined with a set of public fantasies and perceptions that fail to differentiate the impact of drugs from the impact of their illegality, makes it unlikely that that policy of prohibiting drug use will change in the near future.” But many argue that such a change could free up many jail beds and, if the U.S. spends $820.5 billion each year on all things related to drugs, alcohol and tobacco, other paradigm shifts could ultimately solve the core issue by attacking demand instead of the age-old strategy of addressing supply. Instead of spending the vast majority of that $820.5 billion on enforcement, prosecution and incarceration, imagine if 100 percent of that money was spent on treatment and education.
“Even granting that for some people to use some drugs for some purposes might be immoral, in a liberal society they should remain free to act, that is, they should have the legal right to engage in an immoral act where the immorality is directed at themselves, not others,” said Bandow.
Locally, as most residents booked in the jail have ample opportunity to either bond out of jail or wait for two days and leave on their own recognizance, offenders arrested for marijuana only often see smaller bail amounts, indicating that local prosecutors and judges place these violations as less egregious than violent crimes. Offenders arrested for harder drugs are given higher bond amounts, comparable to those arrested for violent or sex-related crimes.
“In Kosciusko County, all the judges have created and agreed to a bond schedule,” said Voelz. “The more severe the crime, the higher the bond. This means the amount of bond is initially the same for every person charged with a similar crime.”