Vera Institute of Justice’s In Our Backyards Initiative Statement on Indiana State Senate Bills

This week, the Corrections and Criminal Law Committee of the Indiana State Senate voted Senate Bills 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 out of committee. This package of legislation is meant to address rising homicides in Marion County. Jasmine Heiss, project director of the In Our Backyards initiative at the Vera Institute of Justice, issued the following statement:

“The Indiana State Senate bills fall short of a holistic and evidence-informed response to violence. Although some of the provisions represent meaningful change from the status quo, this package will not address the urgent problem of rising homicides and gun violence.

First, by expanding the preventive detention of unconvicted people and hobbling the work of charitable bail funds, the package will make the communities most impacted by violence even more vulnerable to the harms of incarceration.

Second, while the amendments to SB 6 will help ensure that most people who are not charged with violent offenses are released before trial, referred to voluntary supportive services, and subject to pretrial conditions only as necessary to ensure community safety and prevent flight, the bill still doubles down on the use of a prohibitively high bail schedule for people charged with more serious offenses. This flies in the face of constitutional due process and fairness. Judges should be allowed to carefully consider the individual circumstances of each case and make findings on the record after a meaningful bail hearing.

What’s more, forcing the courts to revoke pretrial release for anyone arrested on a felony charge while released pretrial will only compound harm. In 2019, seven of the 10 most frequently filed felonies in Indiana were charges related to poverty and substance use (1). This one-size-fits-all approach will compound underlying social and public health problems, not solve them.

Finally, the negative consequences of SB 6 and 8 will also extend beyond the borders of Indianapolis, where many jails are persistently overcrowded and unsafe. Someone has died in Indiana’s jails every two weeks, on average, for more than a decade. The majority were languishing in jail on nonviolent charges and before being convicted of any crime. Indiana is in need of meaningful reforms that move away from the money bail system, address the rapid expansion of electronic monitoring, and direct investment to community-based violence intervention. We urge Indiana’s policymakers to ensure that legislation meant to deliver community safety does not fall short of these goals.”

1) Indiana Prosecuting Attorney Council, “Top Ten Felony Filings, 2015 - 2019,” Indiana Prosecutor Case Management System (source document available on request).

About the Vera Institute of Justice

The Vera Institute of Justice is powered by hundreds of advocates, researchers, and activists working to transform the criminal legal and immigration systems until they’re fair for all. Founded in 1961 to advocate for alternatives to money bail in New York City, Vera is now a national organization that partners with impacted communities and government leaders for change. We develop just, antiracist solutions so that money doesn’t determine freedom; fewer people are in jails, prisons, and immigration detention; and everyone is treated with dignity. Vera’s headquarters is in Brooklyn, New York, with offices in Washington, DC, New Orleans, and Los Angeles. For more information, visit