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Republicans push constitutional amendment to allow judges to withhold bail for many more defendants

Some Indiana Republicans want to change the state constitution to allow judges to withhold bail entirely for a lot more people.

The current constitution requires judges to offer bail except when a person is charged with murder or treason.

A proposed constitutional amendment, SJR 1, would expand that to allow bail to be withheld for any crime – as long as the person is a “substantial risk to the public.”

Courtney Curtis is the assistant executive director of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council. She said judges should have the freedom to make individual decisions about individual defendants.

“If you limit it to a certain number of crimes, then you run the risk of not including folks that you’d want to include and including some folks that you’d rather not,” Curtis said.

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Curtis said there's been a larger bail reform movement in Indiana that needs to be balanced.

Bernice Corley, Indiana Public Defender Council executive director, said the proposed expansion would widen existing disparities in the system. She said many people who can’t afford an attorney don’t have a lawyer at their initial hearing.

“Frightening to think of … there is no nexus between charge level and losing your freedom,” Corley said.

A Senate committee approved the proposed amendment Tuesday. But even if the legislature approves it this year, lawmakers will have to approve it again in 2025 or 2026 before it goes on the ballot for voters to approve.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

Copyright 2023 IPB News. To see more, visit .

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.