Opioid Crisis Adds New Burden to Rural Indiana Courts and Jails

The Crime Report

By Aprile Rickert

The court system in rural Clark County, Indiana, is among the busiest in the state—and likely to get busier thanks to the opioid crisis that is ravaging the region.

Like most counties in rural America, that has added to a jail crisis that has no obvious solution in sight. According to the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, the county jail has been at its near-capacity of 700 inmates since January.

A reprieve may be on the way, however.

A request pending before the Indiana legislature would bring the number of combined judges and magistrates to 10 from eight — closer to the state Supreme Court-recommended number of 11, based on caseload.

Vicki Carmichael, Clark County Circuit Court No. 4 judge, says the new court officers could help expedite cases, including those in which initial hearings could mean a reduction in bond or release.

“You’ve got people sitting in jail that should be out, because they haven’t come to court and they can’t post bond,” Carmichael said.

If the legislature approves the request in its spring session, it won’t come a moment too soon, said Carmichael.

“We’ve got new growth coming,” said the judge. “That means new crime, that means new civil disputes, that means new everything— and we need new courts.”

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