Bail bonds change designed to help with jail overcrowding


Efforts to lessen overcrowding at the Jackson County Jail include more than converting the former juvenile detention center to housing for female inmates.

One initiative, led by Jackson Superior Court I Judge Bruce Markel III, would allow more people arrested on misdemeanor charges to be released on their own recognizance instead of requiring them to post bond.

“Many minor offenses will no longer be bondable,” Markel said of the change in the bond scheduled implemented Monday.

“Something has got to be done to help the sheriff,” he said. “It will make a difference.”

Sheriff Michael Carothers agreed.

“It will keep our overall numbers down, especially on weekends,” Carothers said.

Misdemeanor offenders, however, often have the means to pay smaller bonds or face the judge and admit guilt to get out of jail as quickly as possible, leaving him unsure of how effective the change will be, Carothers said.

Misdemeanor cases are presently assigned to Jackson Superior Court I, where Markel has presided since January 2006. His is retiring May 31, and Gov. Eric Holcomb will appoint the person to finish out the two and a half years remaining in his six-year term.

At this time, just eight Class A misdemeanors will require a $700 cash bond. They are operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration, battery with injury, invasion of privacy, resisting law enforcement, criminal trespassing with the exception of entering upon agricultural property of another and criminal mischief.

Two Class B misdemeanors, public intoxication, and criminal mischief, and two Class C misdemeanors, operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated and operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration, will require $350 bonds. The bond in stalking and domestic battery cases, whether a level 6 felony or misdemeanor, will still require $1,500 bond.

Markel said the move should help, especially with the opioid crisis.

“Because what we’re getting now is literally thousands of possession of marijuana, possession of paraphernalia, possession of a syringe and similar charges,” he said. Over the past three years, an average of 1,243 misdemeanor cases have been filed in the court. In the first two months of this year, 292 cases or 146 cases a month have been filed leading Markel to project that 1,752 cases will be filed this year.

He said there are too many ways to put people in jail.

“It’s just driving like suspended,” he said. “We just can’t put them in jail anymore. There’s no room for them.”

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