Local faith group pushes for “treatment not incarceration”

Sept. 21, 2019
WPTA 21 ABC Fort Wayne

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FORT WAYNE, Ind (WPTA21)- A push for policies for healing people, not incarcerating them was the goal of one local faith group Saturday.

Faith in Indiana is a group focused on creating a movement for racial and economic equality for all Indiana families. The group hosted a town hall and invited local officials Saturday to raise awareness about the issue and find ways to combat it. A member of the group, Mary Foster said they have come up with a plan.

“The solution can be crisis intervention at the time of a potential arrest or another solution is we hope to have a facility in place for short-term diagnosis, again crisis intervention and diversion from jail,” Foster said.

Another member, Shirley Cooper spoke about her experience with incarceration at the town hall. She said she uses her experience to educate those who do not have the resources she had.

“I don’t think I needed incarceration, what I needed was treatment. It took years before that was realized, fortunately, I was able to get that treatment. But now today in the system, in the jails, incarceration and prison they do not have those programs to treat you properly so we can reach and solve the problem,” Cooper said.

According to Faith in Indiana, in Fort Wayne 45 percent of inmates suffer from mental illness and 85 percent from substance abuse. The Allen County Sheriff’s Department and other officials were asked to implement policies that would help reduce incarceration.

“We have the ears open and the hearts are here to address this issue and is known by people we have in the community we have people from all walks of life here coming in to show that there’s an interest and a need in this community,” Cooper said.

People like Shirley shared their stories and experiences with mass incarceration and mental health. She said with help from the community, they hope to make a difference.

“Myself , I’m a fighter so I am not gonna give up. And I believe the people that follow us today and supported us we’re all fighting for this and we’re not going to give up,” Cooper said.

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