Who is in the Marion County Jail? Exploring Length of Stay through an Equity LensSAVI Talks - June 16, 2022
To better understand the Marion County Jail population, some of the challenges it faces, and how longer-term stays relate to these, we examine inmate and booking data obtained from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office. Our analysis explores length of stay and the presence of mental health and substance use among Marion County Jail inmates, drawing attention to the characteristics of those with longer lengths of stay or charges that might merit alternative responses in the community or reduced jail time. We also examine racial disproportionalities within the jail, as half of inmate bookings in recent years are from the Black community, in comparison to the racial composition of Marion County, which is only 30% Black.
The subsequent findings inform the identification of promising approaches to addressing the size and composition of the local jail population and the needs of those impacted by incarceration. This has the potential to reduce the impact of incarceration on the families of those who are jailed and the socioeconomic fabric of communities.
Rebecca Nannery, Polis Center Sr. Research Analyst, and Matt Nowlin, Interim Community Analysis Manager, present highlights from their research. Katrina Pross, criminal justice reporter at WFYI will moderate a panel discussion. Panelists include Bianca Harris, MS, LMHC, Founder and Owner, The Phoenix Nicolas Center, LLC; Josh Riddick, Organizer for the Black Church Coalition, Faith in Indiana; and James Wilson, CEO, Circle Up Indy, LTD.
Daily Jail Population
Monthly Average, 2013-2021
People with an alert stay in jail longer than others when booked for a felony.
Percent of bookings by highest charge level and presence of alert (people with an alert associated with any booking)
Community Trends Report
SAVI Talks Presentation
Here are some questions we received during this event.
Does Marion county jail use the Indiana Risk Assessment System?
Yes, every county in Indiana uses this system, including Marion County Community Corrections. This audit from 2020 contains specifics about the system’s implementation.
Since officers are included on the crisis team and are the ones to complete the evaluation, have they been provided with anti-bias training? Or any specific training related to this program at all?
Yes, all members of MCAT teams receive training, including the officers. Details of the training are explained in this evaluation, but in summary, the training includes a mental health overview, crisis intervention training, police and safety, first aid, and awareness of systems and programs. Also, since 2021, all new recruits undergo an interrupting racism training.
What about trans and non-binary people in jail?
This is a weakness in data collection and data systems at the Marion County Jail, and is a common problem across Indiana. Gender information is only connected as binary “male” or “female” values.
Does this data account for people who had multiple charges?
This analysis does account for people with multiple charges. When discussing statistics about bookings or people, these include bookings and people with multiple charges. When discussing charges or offenses, we associate one charge with each booking: the most severe charge. Each charge has a code that notes its severity. This is a useful lens for analysis, but it does “flatten” some of the depth in the data. The most severe charge may not be the initial offense that caused the police to respond to the incident. For example, a traffic stop could escalate to a charge of resisting arrest.
How do you manage and track bookings data? Does the sheriff give you access to the JailTracker database, or do you house your own database for that and pull the data on a daily basis?
We worked with the Marion County Sherrif’s Office to receive an export of data from their database. We then stored this in our own secure database. Other analysts in Indianapolis have experimented with scraping data directly from the city’s Inmate Lookup Tool.
Are you tracking the social vulnerability index of the community in which each individual booked lives/resides?
This could be the subject of a future analysis. Seventy percent of bookings had the address where the arrest was made, and 98 percent of inmates had a residential ZIP code. Very few inmate records had an exact residential address (0.3 percent).
Are the bookings with a suicide alert also counted among the bookings with a mental health alert?
Yes, suicide alerts and segregation alerts are both subsets of mental health alerts, so they are included.
Do we know how many of those arrested or in jail are “homeless”? And, do we know as people are released from jail if they have a place to go, like a shelter, apartment, etc.?
There were 2,795 inmate records marked as homeless in our dataset. That information essentially was collected beginning in 2018, though a very small number of records have address information (2 percent) before 2018. We do not know where they were released unless it is to a hospital, home detention, or another correctional facility. A focus on these homeless inmates could be the subject of a future analysis.
Where does violent crime like murder fit in?
On any given day, 50 to 60 percent of people in jail are there for a violent offense. Murder is a rare crime, and there have been only 151 bookings for murder since 2018. However, these bookings have resulted in 45,276 bed-days, the 23rd highest of all offenses.
Was there an age stratification?
Date of birth is available in this dataset, but it was not part of this analysis. This would be an important dimension for future analyses.
Articles and Story Maps
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Senior Research Analyst,
The Polis Center
The Polis Center
Consulting Research Analyst,
The Polis Center
Community Analysis Manager,
The Polis Center