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New prosecuting position could help relieve jail overcrowding problem

At Tuesday night's Vigo County Council meeting, members approved a new full-time deputy prosecuting attorney position be added.

Posted: Nov 15, 2017 10:46 PM

VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) - Vigo County Prosecutor Terry Modesitt has his hands full for a couple of reasons.

"If you count city court, and all the cases over there and everything, we've got over 26 thousand pending cases," he said.

Modesitt says violent cases are up about 20 percent, increasing the workload. Along with that, the prosecutor's office continues to deal with the effects of the Vigo County Jail's overcrowding problem.

"We should be able to do our job the way we think it should be done, and then let the chips fall where they fall," said Modesitt, "but that's not the case because of the overcrowding."

Modesitt says they've been doing the best they can with the cards dealt.

"Instead of having warrants issued on like Level 6 felonies or misdemeanors, we're doing summonses, so that they can just be summoned in, and they don't have to be arrested or taken to the jail first," he said, "Obviously if they don't show up for the summons, you have no choice but to issue a warrant, and just trying to put as many people as possible at the community corrections center on in-home detention, or work release, as opposed to being in jail."

Those are just some of the lengths Modesitt says they've gone through to help curb overcrowding. However, with only about 16 attorneys, some of those part-time, the load can be difficult to bear.

"You just think that you can just do your job, and the courts also, and just do your job and do what you think, but then now we're like wait a minute no," he said, "We're being told if we think this person should be in jail, well you're already over your number so you can't put them there."

Help may come in the form of another set of helping hands. At Tuesday night's Vigo County Council meeting, members approved a new full-time deputy prosecuting attorney position be added.

"This position is going to be someone to deal with discovery, as far as trying to make the discovery process between the defense attorney and the state go quicker," Modesitt said, "Stay on top of things because we have to wait until law enforcement provides us a lot of their investigation, paperwork, things like that, so try to stay on that to expedite that. Then, number two, to also run a daily track on the jail count, how long they've been in the jail and try to push for resolution of the cases, especially if they've been in the jail any substantial amount of time while the case is still pending."

The vote passed 6-1 at the council meeting, but not without stipulations. If the position doesn't prove successful, the council will no longer fund it in 2019.

"Our hopes will be that with another prosecutor, we can expedite the process," said Council President Bill Thomas, "If you look, a lot of the folks that are in the jail are pre-trial. If we have another prosecutor involved, it should make more of speedy trial if you will and cut those people out of the jail earlier and move the process along."

Thomas went on to say it's wonderful to see other departments within the criminal justice system do what they can to help.

"That's going to be part of what we're going to find in some of these studies is how we can implement other tools that we have within our arsenal to eliminate and get the folks out of jail sooner and keep them from coming back," Thomas said.

For Modesitt, he's happy to have the extra help going forward and he's hopeful it will be a piece to a bigger solution.

"We're going to do the best we can to have that person make some difference of an impact too on the overcrowding," he said, "Can we solve it all ourselves? No we cant, but for each case that we can cause to be expedited, that will help the problem."

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