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Monroe County NAACP and Prosecutor’s Office team up to hold “community conversation” on justice reform

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (IUSTV News) – Roughly fifty people filled a conference room at the Monroe County Public Library Saturday for a conversation on how to strengthen community trust in the local justice system.

The event, dubbed a “Community Conversation,” was the second of three events that are co-sponsored by the Monroe County Branch of the NAACP, and the Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office.

Monroe County Prosecuting Attorney Erika Oliphant, Monroe County Sheriff Ruben Marté, and Bloomington City Council President Isabel Piedmont-Smith were among the several elected officials at the event.

At the two-hour-long session, community members heard directly from Oliphant about the role the prosecutor’s office has in how bail decisions are made in Monroe County.

Under Indiana law, charged criminals must be offered some level of bail, whether it be on their own recognizance, or a set financial amount. The only charges that are not eligible for any type of bail are murder and treason.

Oliphant, a member of the Monroe County NAACP, acknowledged her concerns about the financial disparities that come with the current bail system. However, she took pride in the pretrial system currently in place in the county, which seeks to increase the number of charged individuals being released on their recognizance.

At a time when concerns loom over the size and condition of the Monroe County Jail, Monroe County Ruben Marté credited Oliphant with helping keep inmate numbers to a maintainable level.

At the community conversation, vent-goers split up into groups to look at three different case studies, to get an idea of the kinds of choices prosecutors make when filing charges and requesting a bail amount. The breakout groups funneled conversations on income inequality and what other solutions could be made to the current bail system.

The time and location for a third community conversation will be announced by the NAACP and Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office at a later date.