Media

Reject criminal justice center

May 10, 2015 | Indianapolis Star | Link to Article

Last month, a City-County Council committee wisely rejected a costly and controversial proposal for a criminal justice center.

Having brought this proposal to the forefront, Sheriff John Layton and Mayor Greg Ballard deserve credit for highlighting a long-neglected problem: an obsolete and dangerous jail.

But council members from both parties also deserve credit for seeing that this particular proposal would cost too much in fiscal and human terms.

Moreover, this proposal fails to address our city's more pressing criminal-justice problem: We too often incarcerate people unnecessarily — especially people who are poor, unemployed or mentally ill. By ignoring alternatives to jail, we inflate costs and magnify inequities of class and race.

As public safety and criminal justice advocates, we voiced concern about this proposal, so it's only right to recommend an alternative.

1. The council should reject the current proposal once and for all.

2. The council should join Mayor Ballard and Sheriff Layton in devising a plan that includes programs and policies for reducing incarceration, in addition to making our jail more humane and cost-effective.

3. To help inform this plan, the council should create a task force that goes beyond the conventional array of stakeholders. In addition to public officials and professionals directly involved in criminal justice, the task force should include members from a wide variety of sources including community, faith and civil rights leaders; job-training and counseling professionals; academic institutions; and people who have been incarcerated.

The task-force objective: Map out a criminal justice system that builds our community up rather than perpetuating structures that tear people down.

We understand that those who support the current justice center proposal will be frustrated and disappointed by its rejection. But this setback may be a blessing in disguise. By pursuing not only better facilities, but also (and more importantly) better policies and programs for reducing incarceration, we will achieve in the foreseeable future a more humane and just system for responding to criminal conduct — and save taxpayers money in the process.

Bishop Michael J. Coyner

Indiana Area of The United Methodist Church

Bishop William Gafkjen

Indiana-Kentucky Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Rabbi Brett Krichiver

Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation

Steve Lattimore

IndyCAN Board Co-chair

The Rev. Clarence C. Moore

Co-Chair IndyCAN Clergy Council

Rev. Rick Spleth

Regional Minister, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Indiana