Judges in Marion County (Indianapolis), IN, de facto decriminalized use and possession of small amounts of marijuana on April 18. With the county corrections system facing fines for overcrowding under an order from US District Judge Sarah Evans Barker, a three-judge executive committee ordered police to quit arresting minor marijuana offenders, prostitutes and unlicensed drivers, the Indianapolis Star reported. Those minor offenders will instead be given the equivalent of traffic tickets and ordered to appear in court at a later date.
A week earlier, Judge Barker had held the county in contempt over its failure to redress overcrowding at the temporary holding facility at the City-County Building. The jail is used to house those arrested until they face a judge for the first time or post bond. She warned that she would impose steep fines beginning May 1 for each day the facility exceeded its 297-person cap and for each inmate held longer than four days. The city violated that cap three times over the weekend of April 19-21.
The move gained the support of the Indianapolis Star, whose editorialists on Monday wrote: "Slapping marijuana smokers, shoplifters and prostitutes with summonses to appear is a reasonable alternative to hauling them to jail. Those types of offenders rarely pose an immediate threat to themselves or others. Cleaning up neighborhoods requires deeper solutions than locking up offenders for short periods of time. Nothing in the judges' order changes that fact. Community safety isn't being sacrificed, and criminals aren't being coddled. Instead, a rational solution has been applied to avert fines that would have hurt every taxpayer in the county."
Not everyone was so enlightened. Bonnie Dotts, president of the We Care Neighborhood Association, a group that has attempted to rid the Washington Street and Belmont Avenue area of prostitutes and drug users, compared the beneficiaries of the move to insects. "These bugs on the streets are going to have a joyous day," Dotts told the Star. "It may be the answer for them Downtown, but it's another problem for the neighborhoods."