How seriously does the Region's criminal justice system take serious crime?

The recent mistaken release from jail of a Portage mother charged with felony abandonment of her three minor children shouldn't instill confidence in anyone.

On Tuesday, Porter County officials confirmed Thanh Nguyen, 46, had been allowed to walk free over the weekend even though a judge had ordered her held without bond until at least Tuesday.

A number of excuses have been offered for why this may have occurred.

None of them are adequate.

No one should be satisfied.

And the Porter County criminal justice system still has much explaining to do.

Regular Times readers no doubt read the initial article about Nguyen last week.

She is charged with leaving her three children — ages 16, 11 and 10 — to fend for themselves, possibly for months at a time, in a Portage mobile home with no working furnace or running water.

This would have included time in the recent polar vortex.

At a hearing last week, Porter Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford ordered Nguyen to be held in jail without bond until at least Tuesday. This was to give the court time to round up a Vietnamese interpreter to explain to Nguyen her rights.

Instead, Nguyen was allowed to post a $1,500 cash bond Sunday, and she walked free from the jail.

The scrambling to explain began Tuesday as court officials scratched their heads in confusion.

Jail officials and other authorities chalked it up to a "misinterpretation" of court documents.

"It was not stated directly to us that her bond was to be changed to a, 'No Bond,'" Porter County sheriff spokeswoman Sgt. Jamie Erow said.

How is that possible?

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The order to hold Nguyen without bond was issued in clear language by Bradford last week.

It's part of the case file.

How could an order to hold a defendant without bond not be clearly communicated to the jail?

Porter County Prosecutor Gary Germann also noted confusion may have arisen because the classification of felonies Nguyen faces normally come with a preset jail bond.

None of us should be satisfied with that answer either.

A court order was in place to keep a woman — charged with felony crimes against her children — in jail.

She was allowed to walk free in spite of that order.

If such a mistake can happen in this case, none of us should feel confident it won't happen with other cases involving even more serious charges.

It's another incident that should leave us all questioning how seriously our justice system takes some criminal matters.

Earlier this month in another editorial, we addressed a litany of recent high-profile cases illustrating just how badly our Region's justice system can minimize other serious crimes.

The shortcomings included a suspect facing trial in connection with a brutal sexual assault being allowed to post bond in Lake County and then breaking free from authorities by cutting off an electronic monitoring bracelet.

They also included a scant $2,500 bond set for a 41-year-old man accused of fondling a 14-year-old girl.

Women, children and the public at large deserve a justice system that takes such crimes more seriously.

That system must be held to account for these shortcomings.

It's unacceptable.


Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Editor Marc Chase, Deputy Editor Kerry Erickson, Regional News Editor Sharon Ross, Assistant Deputy Editor Andrew Steele.