Prayer group again seeks jail alternatives

By Rosa Salter Rodriguez
The Journal Gazette (Fort Wayne) | Nov. 21, 2019

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More than 30 people trying to catch the ear of Allen County Council members stood, held hands and prayed during this morning’s council meeting.

The rare sight came from residents who are part of the Fort Wayne chapter of Faith in Indiana. They were advocating on behalf of a program to avoid incarceration of people with mental health or substance abuse issues.

The group has been pushing for $200,000 in funding that would go toward a strategy called prearrest diversion – having a mental health counselor and medically trained person accompany police on calls that might otherwise include arrest.

Also sought: money for a crisis intervention facility where people would be assessed and assured of treatment and follow-up care instead of only receiving time in jail.  

In October, a group of about eight people, four of them pastors, prayed outside Citizens Square before the Oct. 18 council meeting.

The outdoor prayer was repeated this morning, but numbers had swelled and included people who said they had been incarcerated.

They said incarceration often leads to victimization, punishment while in custody and a cycle of repeated arrests upon release. Families can be destroyed int he process, they said.

Council Chairman, Republican Tom Harris, told the group that council, now in the midst of budget deliberations, can only fund programs presented by county departments. It cannot “write checks” directly to groups.

Democrat Sharon Tucker said the departments that need to be approached are the Sheriff’s Department and the Department of Community Corrections.

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Faith in Indiana leaders urge treatment, not jails