Indiana has 91 elected prosecutors. Experts say the state needs more deputy prosecutors
Indiana prosecutors are responsible for investigating, charging and prosecuting those who are accused of breaking the law. The Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council says the state does not have enough people to do that work.
Courtney Curtis is IPAC’s assistant executive director, which is an organization that helps train prosecutors and represents their wishes to the legislature.
With Indiana's 91 elected prosecutors and current deputy prosecutors, the total only accounts for about 67 percent of what the organization said is needed. Curtis said the state is 440 attorneys short to meet caseload standards.
A spokesperson for IPAC said in an email, Indiana doesn't need more elected prosecutors, but instead needs more deputy prosecutors in their offices across the state to take on cases.
Curtis said there are guidelines to ensure prosecutors don’t have caseloads that inhibit them from being present in helping victims in their cases.
“There's an idea that people will not be safe or have their cases represented well, if their attorney has too many cases in their caseload, if there are too many files on your shelf, then you can't give your individual client the attention that he or she deserves,” she said.
However, she said the lack of deputy prosecutors in Indiana may still leave state prosecutors with a heavy caseload. She said they have been operating at the “lowest standards” for “quite some time.”
“If we're not able to do our jobs in a quick and efficient manner that is more than competent, then it's not just the community who feels that it is actually the accused who feels that too,” she said.
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Curtis said this number could leave communities more vulnerable.
“If we don't start ringing the bell now, then those communities that I talked about, where prosecutors are working really hard to keep those communities safe, they will become less and less safe,” she said.
Curtis said currently, counties are responsible for funding and staffing prosecutor’s offices.
“As crime has increased on the state level, the legislators create new courts and the state pays for judges to go into those courts,” she said. “But county prosecutor's offices are funded by local counties. So when the state creates a new courtroom and staffs that courtroom and pays for that, they don't pay anything to have the prosecutor staff,” she said.
She said if counties don’t “step up” to increase prosecutor’s budgets, this will lead to current prosecutors spreading themselves thin to cover areas and caseloads that would otherwise be covered by other prosecutors.
Curtis said if counties aren’t able to cover this, states should help out.
“When the state is increasing those responsibilities for prosecutors, when they're requiring more and more committees that prosecutors have to serve on, then the state should really fund that,” she said. “The state needs to step up to the plate and make public safety a priority.”
Curtis said in addition to pushing for these changes, her organization is working to show the benefits of prosecutor careers.
“We’re trying to make sure that people understand what it is that we do,” Curtis said. “And the real pride that you can have and joy that you can have and satisfaction that you can have in your job as a prosecutor.”
Curtis said her group is also pushing to help increase pathways to law school and increase awareness on the responsibilities prosecutors have and how they can affect their communities.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story inferred IPAC's stance was that the state needed more elected prosecutors. That was incorrect. IPAC says the state needs more deputy prosecutors to support elected prosecutors