An upcoming public forum will offer insight into Indiana’s statewide jail boom, and ways Vigo County can reduce its reliance on incarceration.
The forum sponsored by the Vera Institute of Justice, Taxpayers Association of Vigo County and Vigo County Public Library will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the library.
The Vera Institute of Justice is a nationally-recognized organization whose mission is to build and improve justice systems. Vera works in partnership with local, state and national government officials to create change from within.
“A little known fact imperils our nation’s collective efforts to end mass incarceration: Major cities such as New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles are no longer bearing the heaviest burden,” Jasmine Heiss, Director of Outreach and Public Affairs Strategist for the Vera Institute for Justice, said. “Instead, thousands of smaller cities and rural counties are now grappling with the nation’s highest incarceration rates. This is true in our own backyards.”
According to Heiss, the jail incarceration rate in Vigo County nearly doubled between 1990 and 2015, and today the incarceration rate is 1.3 times higher than in Chicago and surrounding Cook County.
“A community’s incarceration story can serve as a mirror that reflects the operation of the local justice system, the functioning of community institutions and the decisions of local legislators, law enforcement, prosecutors, judges and even probation and parole officers,” she said. “Vigo County’s history of increased incarceration rates, the impending project to build a much larger jail and ongoing efforts by local officials to manage the jail population place us in a unique position–a position with opportunities, challenges and lessons to learn from others.”
Bob Murray, Executive Director of the Taxpayers Association of Vigo County added that Vigo County must learn from nationwide efforts to reduce jail populations.
“Our best path forward is not to build the biggest jail we can; our best path forward is to build a jail that anticipates and plays an active role in our efforts to manage and reduce our jail population,” he said. “Local efforts have continued to expand our resources and programs, but we must use the new, additional revenue from the local income tax to do more. Keeping people out of the jail when possible is best for our community, for our criminal justice system and for taxpayers.”
For more information about the forum, contact the library at (812) 232-1113.