"I call upon the governing bodies of Monroe County and the City of Bloomington to take all available steps to decrease the existing jail population so as to relieve the pressure on the current jail.
I further call for the County to produce a full study of the cost of renovating the existing jail before proceeding with any new land purchase and construction plans."
Monroe County is proposing to spend $60-70+ million of taxpayer money to build a new jail on the far southwest side of Bloomington to replace the current downtown jail. They’re currently arguing that the jail is too old to fix, and too small for the number of people they plan to incarcerate. At the same time, the county has has not made public statistics on jail population numbers in the last few years.
"It's like the field of dream - if you build it, they're gonna fill it."
—— Sam Crowe, Jail Commander (CJRC meeting Sept 2022)
The $60-70+ million is for their first phases of construction, with plans to continue construction in the future. County officials have been clear in recent meetings about their real motivations for pushing this project through as quickly as possible. They are in a hurry to build a new jail to avoid a lawsuit from the ACLU, who've put pressure on the county in the past to improve conditions for prisoners at the jail.
The government officials, judges, and the jail commander talk a lot about increasing mental health programming and addiction treatment (and how building another jail will help them do this) but they don’t yet have a solid plan for how to fund these programs. The reality is, mental health treatment is less effective in a constricted and coerced environment, and funding options for mental health treatment in jail are limited. For example, Medicaid isn’t accessible to people inside jails. The current jail has not adequately funded mental health services – Centerstone recently pulled their New Beginnings program from the jail due to issues with funding, and this isn’t the first time this problem has come up.
"[...] jail is never going to be an effective mental health treatment provider and should not be relied upon as such."
—— 2021 RJS-JCI study, the latest criminal justice recommendation commissioned by the county
Besides, the current crisis of addiction and mental health in our community is an important question, and deserves better answers than expanding the jail system. Many organizations in town are offering those better answers, and the people holding our tax dollars should be listening more carefully to what they have to say.
We believe there are much more meaningful ways to distribute $60-70+ million dollars, in order to prevent incarceration and support the well-being of our community, rather than spending that money to move the jail out of sight and out of mind.
If you'd like to get involved directly, We meet every thursday 6-7 at the Overlook Community Center (611 W 12th St.), and you can reach us at carenotcages.monroecounty @gmail.com