ST. JOSEPH COUNTY — Keeping people out of jail was the topic of discussion Sunday at a town hall with faith, city and county leaders.
They came together to discuss issues plaguing St. Joseph County including drug addiction, mental health and mass incarceration.
Today’s town hall was about discussing solutions to St. Joseph County’s incarceration problem.
The amount of inmates has continued to go up over the years. Faith leaders along with city and county leaders are working to get those numbers down.
It was a packed house at the Sinai Synangoue in South Bend this afternoon.
“Some of those concerns were mentioned here today with substance abuse issues in our community violence in our community as well as mental health,” said Sheriff Bill Redman (D), St. Joseph County Jail.
The Town Hall brought together city, county and faith leaders along with political candidates to express their commitment to addressing issues plaguing the county.
According to data provided today, nearly 40 percent of inmates in the St. Joseph County Jail suffer from mental illness.
90 percent struggle with drug addiction and they aren’t getting treatment behind bars.
“I think putting them in jail isn’t doing anything and actually makes it a repeated cycle because they don’t get the help that they need the first time,” said Dion Payne-Miller, who has family with addiction/mental health issues.
Payne-Miller attended the town hall and says he has several family members who have been locked up and struggle with mental health issues and addiction.
“It’s very sad and my hope and my prayer is that we develop these things just so that things in our community can get better,” said Payne-Miller.
The Faith In Indiana coalition spear-headed today’s event, advocating for providing addiction and mental health treatment in jails and doing away with the bail money system.
Local leaders asked point blank if they would support these initiatives.
“Yes I will,” said Redman.
Andy Kostielney (R), St. Joseph County Commisioner, and Tim Scott (D), 1st District, also agreed.
Event organizers say they were blown away by the amount of people who showed up. The message for them is to continue to build support for their initiatives.
“We continue to push this, to talk to our leaders, to talk to other members of our communities, to broaden the support because that’s how changes are made, by having lots of people in the community support these changes,” said Rabbi Michael Freiedland, Sinai Synagogue.
Faith In Indiana plans to hold several follow up meetings with the community and local leaders.
There was also talk of setting up a special mental health court and making other changes to reduce the prison population.