INDIANAPOLIS – Post-conviction or pre-trial, more people in Indianapolis wear electronic monitors than anywhere else in the country.
Before the pandemic, there were about 400 more people on GPS monitors than in Cook County, Illinois, where Chicago is located.
An investigation by FOX59 found people were charged with new crimes, including murder, while on bail with electronic monitors. Records show that many others were arrested for new crimes while serving their sentences.
“There’s always a chance someone is in custody and committing a terrible crime,” said Mark Stoner, Marion County Supreme Court Justice. “It’s always the judge’s nightmare.”
Kaylia and Chanel Richardson believe that is exactly what happened to their sister Ashley.
Court documents confirm that Kendale Abel hit Ashley Richardson several times with a hammer on May 2, 2020. He was charged with three lower-level crimes and one misdemeanor.
Despite a 2014 plea for a gun charge, a Marion County judge still released him for Bond and GPS surveillance.
“It should have been a much harsher punishment and the bail shouldn’t even have been on the table,” said Chanel.
A month later, on June 9, 2020, Ashley was dead and Abel was charged with murder. The police said he shot her.
Scott Hohl, executive director of Marion County Community Corrections, said his team did everything they could. The murder took place in a house that Abel and Ashley shared at once.
“Had he left the house, we would have received this warning and we could have spoken to her. But unfortunately nothing would have turned up for us, ”explained Hohl.
Kaylia and Chanel said Abel lured her sister back into the house. Again they thought he should await his trial in prison.
“Everyone knows how it works,” said Chanel. “A woman in nine out of ten will go back to men, and then something like this happens.”
Marion County Supreme Court Justice Mark Stoner hears serious crime and makes conviction decisions. He was not part of Abel’s case, but generally said judges must weigh public safety and the likelihood of the accused appearing on court hearings before consenting to home detention with GPS monitoring.
Stoner believes the judges are not getting enough verified information before making their decisions on the loan. However, he said there are more details available now than in the past.
“The decision we make is largely based on information we get on paper,” said Stoner. “We get an affidavit that was probably written by a police officer. We are looking at a crime story that is just a title and an outcome where we don’t know the facts of individual cases. “
In Marion County, probation officers monitor defendants awaiting electronic-surveillance trials. The MCCC is responsible for those serving their sentences after being convicted for surveillance.
Due to community corrections, just over 4,000 people were monitored prior to COVID in 2020. Then, in January of that year, the county probation department took over 1,700 pre-trial cases and is now monitoring them in place of MCCC. Community corrections are still following 1,847 people.
“I think even earlier, when 4,000 cases were corrected in the community, we were able to provide all of the required case management and monitoring, but this has certainly strained our people and resources,” said Hohl.
The numbers show this: In 2020, 2,699 tracking devices were converted back to MCCC. 1,916 were successfully returned in the City County Building and Duvall Residential Center.
However, the other 793 devices were found elsewhere. MCCC said they were sometimes removed in the hospital, sometimes returned from the morgue, and sometimes abandoned.
“The number under which you cut the device, and we lose track of it. Obviously we are raising arrest warrants against these people,” said Hohl. “It’s a smaller percentage where we both don’t know where the device is or where the customer is. We lose any kind of trace with them.”
Hohl said there is a concern that many will be found in places where they should not be found.
“Yes, I mean, our goal is obviously public safety,” said Hohl. “Any time we lose sight of a person for any length of time, even if it is only a short time before we can maintain or reconnect with them, or for an extended period of time and we know they cut their person device, we locate the device and the person is gone, we filed an arrest warrant.
“These certainly concern us because they have been sentenced to electronic surveillance for a specific reason.”
MCCC has four case managers and one supervisor. This device’s job is to check customers through unannounced on-site visits. According to the 2020 annual report, the sales force teams have a successful contact rate of 83%. Successful contact is measured by the field service teams making face-to-face contact with the individual, a family member, a neighbor, an employer, an approved employer, or others.
The field team is also responsible for informing victims about the offenders whose equipment is defective or who are “belt manipulators”. This notification occurs if a customer has not been monitored for 24 hours and an IMPD welfare check is “unsuccessful” according to the annual report.
Data is also an ongoing problem, says an official who needs money to fix it. For MCCC, Hohl said there must be an established relapse rate.
“I think all of our public safety partners would struggle to determine the relapse rate because we don’t have easy access to each other’s data to know, ‘Yes, they left my program, but they’ve been six months later arrested again. ‘Said Hollow.
Stoner said the MCCC and pre-investigation services need more resources to collect data, which indicates whether surveillance and programs are actually effective in rehabilitating people and preventing them from committing more crimes.
“We know we are not allocating enough probation and corrective action funds for what we need for such a big city,” said Stoner.
Solutions to the system cannot come soon enough for families like the Richardsons.
“How do you monitor people?” Asked Chanel. “How does that protect people? Why do we still leave people out for GPS monitoring? “
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