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Posted November 21, 2017 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock - 0 Comments

Moving towards a Softer, More Gentle Criminal Justice System

I’ve been parking in the same lot at the Indianapolis airport for several years now.  In the past year or so I began noticing people were parking in areas marked in yellow and at the end of rows where there were no marked spaces.  The first time I saw this I figured, that car will be surely be towed.  However, when I got back in town a few days later that same car was still there, untouched.  In fact, a bright orange traffic cone had been lovingly placed near the bumper by security, to protect the vehicle.  It wasn’t long before more and more people began parking in spots not meant for parking and more and more orange cones were being placed to protect these violators.  Security with a heart?

It occurred to me, these seemingly innocent yet unenforced parking violations epitomized how our country is migrating towards a level of passivity for law breakers in which we may not soon recover.  Those individuals and groups pressing to end the use of bail to guarantee appearance, seemingly have no fear of the consequences, if their efforts are successful.  If bad actors feel no threat of reprisals for bad behavior (see the entire states of New Jersey and New Mexico) they will continue to act badly.  People who have walked close, but never crossed the line, may feel safe in doing so because the agencies with the power to enforce the law are electing not to do so.

Hamilton County is situated just north of Indianapolis.  Someone charged with mutilating an animal was released on a free bond, in April 2017, through that county’s pretrial release program after receiving a risk assessment evaluation.  The defendant missed his first scheduled court appearance after to being released from jail. The bench warrant still showed active as of last week.

A quick search on Google found the defendant to have been arrested with several accomplices for attempting to rob an Ohio pharmacy, just two weeks after Hamilton County released him on a free bond.

It’s not so much that the defendant committed another crime while out on a free bond. It’s that Hamilton County was unaware of this arrest because their prosecutor’s office placed a 250-mile radius on the NCIC warrant, as opposed to a national warrant.  Apparently, people charged with mutilating animals in Hamilton County must get beyond the “care zone”, if they want to avoid prosecution.  Free bond, free head start, free from being pursued.

Trending on Twitter is an effort to do away with probation and parole.  Probation and parole are legal options, based on eligibility, for someone convicted of a crime to either avoid being sent to prison or to be released from prison early.  Both probation and parole come with conditions that if violated, may result in the defendant being ordered by the court to serve out their original prison sentence.

The solution being offered to the perceived problem of too many probationers and parolees violating the conditions of their release, is to do away with these release options all together.  So, if we do away with probation and parole that would mean more people would be required to serve out their prison terms, right?  How does that solve the “over-incarceration” problem, you ask?  Well, because the answer for the no probation and prison advocates is not that convicted offenders would serve jail time instead of probation and parole, it’s that these individuals would simply avoid serving out their sentences, without condition.  Because if there are no conditions there can be no violations.

On my recent road trip, I decided to throw caution to the wind and park at the end of a row where nobody was meant to park.  I left believing I would return from my trip and my car would be towed. I thought I would be made an example to ward off any future violators.  I was wrong. When I approached my car, I found an orange traffic cone protecting my rear flank.  How thoughtful.

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