Safety and Health

First, let’s talk about the Criminal Justice Complex

District 12 has a lot to gain or lose from Mayor Hogsett’s proposed criminal justice complex along Prospect Street and Southeastern Ave. While not in District 12, the facility would stand just adjacent to District 12’s western edge. The Mayor’s proposal calls for intake, mental health, counseling, and jail facilities to be co-located on the campus. The Courts would have the option of moving from the City-County Building to the complex, too. (Judges are technically State Officers and have more autonomous control of their courts.)

With the information we have now, I am opposed to the new complex. The plan was originally drafted by Mayor Greg Ballard but scrapped by Mayor Hogsett, which cost us extra money in re-planning and re-purposing. I don’t believe either plan will create many new jobs, except temporary construction jobs, as they promise. Most of the staff will just move from one facility to another. It’s more likely to lower property values.

It is true that Marion County’s jails are overcrowded and in violation of federal law on the housing of inmates. The solution does not necessarily mean building more jails.

The new complex co-locates mental and substance abuse help alongside jails. This puts alcohol addiction treatment on the same level as child sexual assault. In an instance where an alcohol abuser seeks treatment and a child predator needs detained, one is a crime and one is not. We must stop treating people who are ready to get their lives in order as criminals. It’s a social problem, not necessarily a judicial one.

Governments are also spectacularly bad at running and managing treatment facilities in cost, scale, service, and most importantly: success rate. Nonprofit programs in Marion County like Dove Recovery House, to name one, have success rates at 70%+. Most government-run facilities have success rates below 20%.

If we agree our criminal justice and mental/addiction health programs need dramatic change, and I do, we should take a hard look at the treatment side first and contract with service providers who enjoy a high success rate.

Through treatment, we may discover we’re able to use the existing jail facilities with complete adequacy. By using non-government service providers to help rehabilitate and treat mental health and addiction issues, we can enjoy the same success rate they have today at a larger scale.

Drones are helicopters, too

IMPD One, our city’s official police helicopter, is 45 years old. It’s the oldest police chopper still in service by any police department in the country. It’s expensive to fly at $400 an hour – partly because of its age and inefficiency – and is used sparingly. The chopper is valuable to law enforcement, however. One police chopper is equal to 10 officers in squad cars. Surveillance issues are a problem, but so is tracking down someone who has committed a serious crime.

There are some cheaper alternatives worth exploring. Industrial-grade drones are cheaper, remotely controlled, and can provide the sort of aerial view and even night-vision assistance officers on the ground need in an emergency or dangerous situation.

We should be careful, however, that we don’t take a path we’ll later regret. The use of drones and other aerial equipment should be specifically defined and narrowly limited to prevent miles-wide surveillance of people in their homes and businesses. A warrant issued for your neighbor isn’t good enough if a drone is hovering overhead and capable of seeing your house and every house around.

Justin Harter for District 12