• Bill Raines

Lawrence County Justice Study - Lawrence County Circuit Judge Nathan Nikirk

By: Bill Raines

Lawrence County Zephyr

LAWRENCE COUNTY - (November 30, 2021) - The Lawrence County Zephyr continueing its coverage on the Lawrence County Justice Study requested by the Lawrence County Commissioners.

In today's feature we look at Lawrence County Circuit Court Judge Nathan Nikirk perspective as it relates to the Lawrence County Justice system.

Judge Nikirk presides over all civil matters in Lawrence County. In this position he does not have much interaction with the jail or inmate population in the court.

However, Judge Nikirk believes Lawrence County has worked very hard in reducing the jail population by looking into alternatives to incarceration which includes pretrial release and addressing bond issues quickly.

The justice system partners meet quarterly to discuuss the local justice system. " I know the criminal court judges work closely with the prosecutor and chief public defender to release non-violent offenders and other inmates that are suitable for pretrial release or house arrest," said Judge Nikirk.

" I do believe one of the major issues we face in Lawrence County is funding by our local county council to address necessary updates to courtrooms which include the construction of and additional courtroom. The jail and other critical infrastructure to keep the justice system working efficiently,"

The community corrections departments conduct interviews with the inmate population and makes a recommendation to the criminal court judges regarding pretrial release.

Lawrence County Circuit Court runs one of only three juvenile problem-solving courts in the State of Indiana. Normally there are 10-12 juveniles are ordered into the program at any given time.

The program is an intensive monitored problem-solving court that ultimately seeks to keep juveniles out of the Indiana Department of Corrections.

The Lawrence County Circuit Court recently became a Juvenile Alternative Initiative (JDAI) county. JDAI is an Indiana Supreme Court program that provides direction, funding, and resources to local juvenile justice partners to assist with services as an alternate to detaining a juvenile.

JDAI is relatively new to the county and progress is being made in seeing the detention rate decrease.

Judge Nikirk states " Lawrence County desperately needs a facility to provide mental health and rehabilitation services for juveniles. It would seem logical that providing services to juveniles would eventually impact the number of adult offenders and jail population. Most of the juveniles that I see in court age out and end up in adult criminal court,"

" I have very few options, outside of the juvenile probation department, regarding the rehabilitation of juveniles in Lawrence County, Funding is a major issue and our county coucil has to make this a priority rather than rely on the courts to constantly seek grant funding from the state," said Nikirk.

We will continue to look at the Lawrence County Justice Study, next we will look at Superior Court II Judge Bob Cline comments on the Lawrence County Justice Survey.

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