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Today, Senator Erin Houchin joined 28 other Senators from around the state in signing a letter to the Indiana Supreme Court in response to a petition filed by the ACLU of Indiana that asks the court to change existing rules on the release of prisoners during the
COVID-19 pandemic.

The letter states the position of the undersigned Senators that such a broad rule change is a risk to public safety and a violation of the separation of powers. Most notably, under the proposed rule change, the court could direct local Judges, by rule, to not only release prisoners awaiting trial, but also to modify sentences of those already convicted.

Current law requires local Prosecutors to approve sentence modification petitions filed in cases where plea agreements have already been established.

The rule, if changed, would allow Judges to make decisions to release convicted prisoners into the public without the approval of Prosecutors, and contrary to what is currently Indiana Law.

Houchin and others made the argument that the current Department of Correction and local officials already have the ability to work together to make decisions in the best interest of both public health and safety and the ACLUs request to change the rules goes too far. Houchin and the 28 other signers to the letter respectfully ask the court to deny the petition.

The petition filed by the ACLU-IN follows similar filings by the ACLU across the country.
Houchin said the following today of the filing.

It is deeply concerning in this time of uncertainty that the ACLU would take such a broad approach in mitigating potential health threats within the criminal justice system.

These threats are prevalent in any institution and our existing laws, as well as ample available space in our Indiana Department of Correction to allow for separation of
prisoners and mitigation of risk, make the request invalid. We cannot and should not undermine our very system of justice or the separation of powers in taking such an action.

Local officials have already been implementing allowable procedures to reduce jail populations while balancing public health and safety under current law.

The ACLU request goes too far and I urge the court to deny the petition.

FINAL ACLU Inmate Letter