County launches plan to ease jail overcrowding

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Steve Jefferson/Eyewitness News

Marion County - The Marion County courts are about to undergo a major overhaul. The measures are meant to ease jail overcrowding to help keep dangerous criminal behind bars and stop Indianapolis' violent crime wave. Some of the changes will happen immediately. Others will come later when funding becomes available.

The city's Criminal Justice Planning Committee just made some major changes to ease jail overcrowding.The changes comes after Indy's violence crime wave leaving more than a dozen people murdered. Judge Cale Bradford says easing jail overcrowding starts with clearing out criminals from other jurisdictions.

"We just ordered everybody that is being held who is out of county to be removed from the Marion County jail," said Judge Bradford.

The changes include adding a third drug court to the docket. The backlogged crime lab and county DNA experts will outsource work to speed up results. Ballistics testing is also backlogged.

"You need more people to conduct those examinations," said Bradford.

The overall changes will cost $2.2 million for the rest of 2006 and $5 million for 2007. That money will pay for two new fire arms examiners and two additional fingerprint examiners.

Mayor Peterson plans to announce later how to pay for it. "It could be a tax increase, spending reserves, cuts elsewhere. There are a lot of different options," said the mayor.

Right now to ease the overcrowding, the courts do early releases to meet a federally-mandated prison count. "You can't continue to release 10 , 20, 30 and 40 prisoners every day and have them home by the time the officer's shift ends," said Prosecutor Carl Brizzi.

"I've got 2,800 prisoners in my custody and only 300 of them are doing jail time," said Sheriff Frank Anderson.

But the criminal justice planning committee says with the changes, people who continue to commit crimes won't get out of jail any time soon.