Judge orders Allen County to nail down new jail site and hire more jailers

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Supporters flood the court dressed in red to show their opposition to the current choice of prison site

A federal judge on Thursday gave Allen County commissioners until Nov. 30 to identify a site for a new jail, the number of jail beds and architectural designs.

Federal Judge Damon R. Leichty has scheduled another hearing for Dec. 16 at 10 a.m. At that December meeting, he asked Elevatus architect Cory Miller to be present to explain the construction landmarks. Elevatus published a study of the criminal justice system in 2021 and is now the designated architect for a new prison.

Judge appoints Help Not Handcuffs as amicus curiae

As the hearing progressed, the courtroom was filled with residents and supporters dressed in red to show their opposition to a prison built on the southeast side. Represented by local lawyer Diana Bauer, the group, Help Not Handcuffs, is a coalition of residents, former prison inmates, who not only oppose a prison on the southeast side, but are quite against a new prison.

Bauer said the group favors alternatives to incarceration and believes that due to overwhelming opposition to the construction of the jail at the Allen County Sheriff’s Training Center at Adams Center and Paulding Roads , the commissioners will eventually remove this county property from the table.

“I applied for amicus curiae status and that just means friend of the court,” Bauer said after the hearing, which lasted about three hours. The judge “exercised his discretion today to say yes, we need your voice in this case. I think as these additional proposals come along, Help Not Handcuffs will be able to comment on that.

Indiana ACLU chief legal officer Ken Falk continues his watchdog role as Allen County officials work to build a new jail.

The purpose of the organization is not completely contrary to what the sheriff and commissioners strive for. If the number of prisons had been reduced, they might never have been prosecuted in the first place because of the misery that comes from overcrowding and understaffing.

But their job is to follow Leichty’s orders. Leichty harshly criticized the commissioners during the final hearing on June 16, citing the county’s general indifference to prison conditions and ordered the commissioners to propose a site for a new jail if they had no intention to renovate the existing prison. .

Neither Allen County Sheriff David Gladieux nor Nelson Peters, chairman of the board of three member commissioners, would comment after Thursday’s hearing. Kenneth Falk, lead attorney for the Indiana ACLU, and Bauer agreed to offer their opinions.

The new terms Leichty set on Thursday are the result of him pushing county officials to improve human rights abuses at the existing jail, the subject of a federal lawsuit filed by the Indiana ACLU and inmates on behalf of current and future inmates.

Since March 31, when Leichty issued his opinion in favor of the ACLU and the inmates, the defendants in the trial – Gladieux and the commissioners – have received ultimatums from Leichty to reduce overcrowding and understaffing.

The judge wants the property to be chosen with a purchase agreement

As commissioners are ordered to find suitable property and present a purchase agreement, the sheriff has been instructed to find other ways to hire more containment officers, including asking for money to the county council to go beyond the 148 already budgeted. ACLU senior counsel Kenneth Falk said to fully staff the existing prison, the number of detention officers needed is more than 200.

New on the table is Leichty’s desire for the criminal courts to be involved in prison population reduction and community involvement.

Justice Leichty pushes for criminal justice system involvement

Leichty didn’t seem aware of the JRAC — the Justice Reinvestment Advisory Council — which replaced Allen County Community Corrections earlier this year. Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull and Circuit Court Judge Wendy Davis serve as chair and vice chair of the board, which operates in a local and state capacity. The board meets six times a year at the Community Corrections Day Reporting Center on West Superior Street and the meetings are not televised on Facebook like other county meetings. The next meeting is September 22 at noon.

Including judges, prosecutors, public defenders, probation, parole in addition to community corrections is a suggestion from Falk who saw Marion County go through a similar process in 2006 when it was considered the most large county in Indiana that needed to build a new jail. The process produced a faster court system by adding judges, prosecutors, public defenders, a night court and a court strictly for probation offenders.

What is the Justice Reinvestment Advisory Council? the former community corrections board is the answer

Leichty asked for a list of JRAC members and wondered if any of the activists from the group, Help Not Handcuffs, were on it.

County District Attorney Ted Storer had to admit that was not the case.

“Today I heard about JRAC for the first time,” Falk said. “But we had said in our previous filing and hearing that from our experience in Marion County, it makes perfect sense for all stakeholders to be involved and working together to resolve the issues. “Anything that will get stakeholders talking and acknowledging that they ultimately need to focus on who is in prison and reducing that population is a good thing.”

“It’s a community challenge,” Leichty said at least twice, indicating he wanted everyone at the table. A new formal committee is a necessity, he added.

Diana Bauer, representing Help Not Handcuffs, and Tony Borton are part of a group that opposes the construction of a prison on the South East side and also opposes the construction of any new prisons.

“If there is a meeting with the court, Help Not Handcuffs will be part of it,” Bauer said, noting that she was one of seven community members who met with a group of commissioners, judges and Allen County District Attorney Karen Richards. the week. Religious, community and non-profit leaders are members of Help Not Handcuffs.

There is little local enthusiasm to renovate the 40-year-old city center jail with leaking and rotting pipes and infrastructure that WANE first revealed in March after an in-person reporting visit. Other design flaws do not lend themselves to modern prison security.

In fact, the city wants to see three acres set aside for more booming downtown development. New mixed-use buildings surround the jail on Clinton and Superior streets.

The sheriff’s training center that lands inside the city limits would likely need Zoning Board approval and it’s too late to put the plan on the September agenda. This would place approval in a precarious position and further incentivize commissioners to continue monitoring other properties.

Commissioners looking south, west and east to other private sites

Currently, three other private sites are being considered, one in the city and two in the county, Storer told the judge.

Locations are on the east and west side of Fort Wayne and one on the south side,
“close to another municipal unit,” Storer noted. But he would not identify the locations.

The commissioners issued a statement later Thursday.

“We are pleased that the Federal Court has recognized the predicament our community finds itself in regarding the selection of the prison site,” the statement read. “We are grateful to have the additional 90 days the court has granted to continue analyzing potential locations. As noted, we’ll be moving forward with reasonable deliberate haste while balancing the feedback we’ve received from the community.

Leichty seemed impatient with the schedule to produce another site, but acquiesced given the complexity of real estate acquisitions. According to a prison timeline produced by Elevatus, the prison would not be ready for occupancy until 2027.

Members of the Justice Reinvestment Advisory Council, formerly known as the Allen County Community Corrections Advisory Board

“I think what the judge said is he wants to come back and have a more specific plan,” Falk said after the hearing. “Things are moving a bit. The ownership of the new prison is not at all clear. It doesn’t show up where the commissioners originally stated, so we have a 90-day period for new properties and plans.

Members of the Justice Reinvestment Advisory Council, formerly known as the Allen County Community Corrections Advisory Board

Justices Fran Gull, President

Wendy Davis, Vice President

Andrea Trevino,

David Zent

Allen County District Attorney Karen Richards

Allen County Sheriff David Gladieux

County Commissioners Nelson Peters and Therese Brown

Chris Spurr, County Council

Chief Public Defender, William Lebrato

Head of Adult Probation, Eric Zimmerman

Charles Clark, Park Center, Inc.

Kim Churchward, Executive Director, Community Corrections

Ashley Inge, Allen County Juvenile Center

April Winfield, Allen County Juvenile Probation Officer

Melissa Hayden, Department of Children’s Services (DCS)

Mayor Tom Henry

Jessica Crozier, Fort Wayne Police Department Victim Assistance

Gradlin (Grady) Pruitt, LC Ward Education Center, Education Administrator

Spencer Feighner, County Attorney

Elisha Harris, Allen County Jail Department

Reverend Bill McGill, Lay, Appointed Commissioner

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