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(Photo: Faith in Indiana)
By Megan Smedley | Posted: Sun 11:42 PM, Mar 24, 2019
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) – Even as a sophomore in high school Dion Payne-Miller says he knows way too many people who have been incarcerated and are mentally ill or are battling addiction.
“Too many, too many to count,” Payne-Miller said. “ It’s very saddening.”
He believes jail is not the answer.
“It actually makes it a repeated cycle because they didn’t get the help they needed at the first time,” Payne-Miller said.
Dion was just one voice in the packed Sinai Synagogue Sunday afternoon as part of the Live Free Town Hall.
The event was hosted by the St. Joseph County Chapter of Faith in Indiana to encourage elected officials to create jail diversion programs for those who are mentally ill or battling addiction.
“Faith leaders have a role to make the changes that need to our community needs,” Rabbi Michael Friedland said.
It’s an issue that crosses party lines, religions, and agencies.
“It’s a multi-faceted approach and it’s going to get solved that way,” South Bend Common Council President Tim Scott said. “We need to work together as a team.”
“That is a dire need here in St. Joe County,” Sheriff William Redman said. “We need assistance. We need a facility.”
Sheriff William Redman committed to using some of his budget to help with treatments.
“I would like to start more programming within the jail to help with substance abuse and mental health, to get those individuals out and at least get them prepared for when they are released from our jail,” Redman said.
Common council members and candidates also pledged some of their budget and to work with the faith leaders to help heal people.
“There’s definitely needs for people some beds and some long term therapy within our community,” Scott said. “We really got figure that out.”
For Dion Payne-Miller he says it’s important for kids to have a voice in this issue.
“If you silence us then I feel like a lot of time, a lot of young folk they don’t feel like they have a voice and then they act out in rage,” Payne-Miller said.
He summarizes his and many others views with one simple phrase.
“Jail is not the answer,” Payne-Miller said.
Rabbi Friedland says the next steps are for the community members to keep speaking about the issue across the community to broaden the support.