Monday, August 21, 2006

Full Speed Ahead

The Marion County Criminal Justice Team got things started today to help ease some of the crowding issues in the jail. Night Court might not be as fun without judge Stone, but they could get Judge Stoner to hear cases!

A series of sweeping changes to the Marion County criminal justice system – prompted by the jump in violent crimes this year – begin today. Among the changes are a new night court to handle Class D felony and misdemeanor gun cases and a warrant strike team to go after defendants who fail to show up for court.

Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi says it’s all about speeding up the criminal justice system. “When you have somebody in jail on a “no bond” hold, rather than just languishing in jail, let’s expedite their appearance before a judge and decide what we’re going to do with their case,” he says. Officials say moving cases through the courts at a faster pace should reduce the number of people waiting in the county jail for trial and ease jail overcrowding. It’s hoped the changes will also eliminate the release of criminals when the jail reaches the court-ordered cap.

In addition to night court, most courtrooms in the county have expanded their hours so they can handle more cases. But longer hours and more courts means more personnel – judges, court staff, and prosecutors. City officials have estimated the changes will cost more than $7 million dollars through 2007, and they’re scrambling to find the money. They’re also not ruling out the need for a tax hike to cover the cost.

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