Reasons you should oppose the new jail project in Delaware County, Indiana ….
*The County Commissioners have justified the new jail project based on extremely flimsy data. They sought proposals for a 500–750 bed jail based on this projection:
This graph oversimplifies a trend based on a very narrow and outdated (2010) dataset. It is astonishingly wrong to characterize the jail population as forever increasing, particularly in a region with a marginally decreasing population and decreasing crime rate. The entire project is based on the jail population predictions in this graph, a project that will impact our county for decades. Anyone familiar with the numbers knows that the graph’s “projection” of 500 jailed people in Delaware County for this year, 2018, is flat wrong. There are around half of that jailed right now.
*With decreasing incidence of crime and a decreasing population, there is no need for an expanded new facility.
Muncie PD data in the FBI Crime Data Explorer
FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics
Muncie Data from FBI UCR
*The planning process has not been transparent. The officials in charge have provided very little opportunity for public input and feedback. Multiple elected officials have echoed this on the record, including current County Councilperson Scott Alexander (R) and City Councilperson Dan Ridenour (R) at the November 26 Special Meeting. The community has repeatedly asked that the commissioners hold a public forum on the issue during a time that most residents could attend (not 9 am on a Monday) and a place with adequate space. County officials arranged well attended forums on important issues in the recent past, like the Mounds Lake proposal and Confined Animal Feeding Operations policy but have steadfastly refused to do so with regard to the jail project.
*Bail reform policy that goes into effect for the whole state in 2020 will reduce the number of people that need housed in jail.
IndyStar: “These Indiana counties stopped requiring bail. Here’s how that’s worked”
*Indiana Department of Corrections has NOT directly mandated that a new facility be built. A letter from IDOC official Chance Sweat cites several ways that Delaware County can comply to Indiana Jail Standards (“alternatives to incarceration, reducing the inmate population, increasing bed space or a plan to build a new jail or expanded [sic] the present facility”), only one of which is build a new jail.
Letter from IDOC, Chance Sweat
The commissioners have given the public the wrong idea about IDOC compliance, telling the public that a new jail must be built as mandated by the state.
*The community wants and needs a variety of drug addiction rehabilitation services. There is a consensus in the field of public health that addiction needs to be treated as a health problem, not a legal problem. Better rehab services, especially in-patient programs of which there are none in Delaware County, will reduce the number of people in jail. Winchester, a city that is one-fourteenth the population of Muncie, recently opened an in-patient addiction treatment facility for $800,000 which serves 23 women.
*The community wants and needs a variety of mental health services. Better mental health services will reduce the number of people in jail. “According to federal data from 2011 to 2012, more than 40 percent of jail inmates reported having been told by a mental health professional that they had a mental health disorder.”
NPR: “County Jails Struggle To Treat Mentally Ill Inmates”
*Over the last decade the national trend, often enabled by bipartisan legislation, has been to reduce the number of people incarcerated, yet the new jail project makes more space to incarcerate more people.
Pew Research: “America’s incarceration rate is at a two decade low”
*Troy Woodruff, head of the Delaware County Justice Partners LLC that is leading the jail project, has been investigated for corruption by Indiana state ethics officials. “As chief of staff for the Indiana Department of Transportation, Woodruff had recently signed several contracts that sent at least $500,000 in taxpayer money to the firm, RQAW.” And now Woodruff is head of RQAW, one of the partners of Delaware County Justice Partners LLC.
IndyStar: “Another loophole for ex-INDOT official?”
Leslie Draper blog
(After the November 26, 2018 Commissioners Special Meeting, Pete Peterson, a colleague of Woodruff’s with RQAW, got so angry responding to citizen concern about Woodruff’s ethical practices that he was escorted away by a sheriff’s deputy.)
*We should not be inventing financial incentives for law enforcement to lock up even more people. Commissioners have stated that some cost savings can be made by taking in prisoners from neighboring counties, and indeed, their argument is that a new, expansive jail facility will generate revenue in the long run. To many people in our community, acquiring profit from locking up more people is a moral outrage.
*County Commissioners will be using a fund created by the economic development income tax (EDIT) to pay for the new jail project over 25 years. It is debatable that a new jail facility qualifies as “economic development” according to common sense and according to Indiana state statute.
*Downtown is centrally located and accessible by MITS, the proposed new location is not. Moving the jail to the outskirts of Muncie places an even larger burden on the loved ones of jailed people. Many people visiting the jail do not have access to reliable transportation. (Adding bus routes is costly and still wouldn’t solve this problem.)
*The Muncie Bar Association opposes the move of the court system from downtown, citing economic impact, client inconvenience, transportation issues.
The Star Press: “Muncie Attorneys Oppose Moving Jail”
*State incarceration reforms have shifted burden for incarceration from state facilities to county jails. Starting at the beginning of 2016, people convicted of low level felony charges have been incarcerated in county jails instead of state prisons. One of the main causes of the recent local overcrowding problems is this state policy change. In addition to local diversion and policing strategies, municipalities must petition the state of Indiana to address this overcrowding.
Vera Institute: “Crisis at the Crossroads of America”
*Other options to solve overcrowded conditions at the current jail have not been fully explored. Nowhere in County Attorney John Brooke’s report does it indicate that the commissioners considered reducing the jail population through additional diversion, treatment, and psychiatric programs, or through building a more modest annex. They did not consider options that did not include building a 500+ bed facility.
*There is no apparent plan for the current Justice Center building once it is vacated. Commissioners have not stated they have plans or prospects for this valuable public resource located in the center of downtown.
*The is a moral problem with incarcerating people in what was once a school. As Leslie Draper (public comment at November 26 Special Meeting) has stated, there will be people who attended Wilson Middle School who will be jailed there. Jailing people in a space formerly used as a school is not only morally degrading for those jailed people who attended Wilson Middle School, but it will always be a stain on our community as a whole. Do we want to be known as the municipality that literally transform a school into a jail?
*The is a moral problem with expanding and strengthening the system of incarceration. The US incarcerates more people by raw number, and rate, than any other society in history. The US incarcerates people in inhumane conditions in a system based upon racial and class discrimination.
Michelle Alexander wrote The New Jim Crow
Ava DuVernay directed the popular documentary 13TH
*There has been little to no discussion about reform at the county prosecutor level. Prosecutors decide on which charges to file against which arrested people and often largely determine length of sentencing. In other words, this office also has a huge effect on how many people are in jail, so policy reforms can significantly reduce the incarcerated population. Jeff Arnold is the current prosecuting attorney in Delaware County. Eric Hoffman was elected (unopposed) to replace Arnold in 2019. The district attorney in Philadelphia, Larry Krasner, has recently implemented reforms that have resulted in less people getting jailed.
*A few sections from the Indiana State Constitution related to jail conditions and overcrowding:
Section 12. Justice shall be administered freely, and without purchase; completely, and without denial; speedily, and without delay.
Section 16. Excessive bail shall not be required. Excessive fines shall not be imposed.
Section 18. The penal code shall be founded on the principles of reformation, and not of vindictive justice.
Documents and Resources
BOT Agreement under consideration:
County Attorney John Brooke’s review of jail options (i.e. Commissioners’ arguments in favor of the new jail project):
The Request for Proposals for the new jail:
Letter from Indiana Department of Corrections official Chance Sweat, August 31, 2017:
Delaware County Jail Bed Projection, August 6, 2010, DLZ Indiana LLC:
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