'We've got an epidemic of building jails...' Public speaks out about the new jail in Vigo County

A nationally recognized program looked at the jail system in Vigo County and the state of Indiana and says there's a big problem here.

Posted: Apr 24, 2019 11:34 PM
Updated: Apr 25, 2019 4:43 PM

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) -- Facts about Vigo County and the Indiana jail system shocked the crowd Wednesday night.

"Since the 80's the incarceration (in Vigo County) has increased almost 300% and since 2000, which was one of the last times there was this very active conversation about building a new jail the incarceration rate has increased 100%," Jasmine Heiss, Director of outreach and strategist for Vera Institute of Justice said.  

Vera Institute of Justice is a nationally recognized organization whose mission is to build and improve justice systems.

Heiss said they chose Vigo County because they saw the opportunity while there is a conversation for a new jail.

"Today the most jailed communities and increasingly the biggest jails are in some of Americas smallest places," she said.

The rise in incarceration rates can be somewhat blamed on house bill 1006.

The bill says inmates in state prisons with lower level felonies would be transferred back to their county.

However, the county jails didn't get any money to help them after this transfer.

Now, like a lot of places in Indiana, Vigo County is facing overpopulation in their jails.

Which is causing a dangerous environment for inmates and pushing officials to decide to build this new jail.

Most people say something does need to be done, but several just want to make sure the county is going about it the right way.

"We don't think the answer is just to build a bigger jail every 20 or 30 years there are alternatives to incarceration and they're being proven across the country and Indiana's among the worst we're just building," Charlie Williams, President of the Taxpayers Association of Vigo County said. "We've got an epidemic of building jails. I don't think that's the answer and I don't think, just as a matter of taxation, I don't' think we can afford it."

Leaders are still considering 3 potential jail sites. 

Those locations are a site at Springhill Drive and Indiana 63, a former golf course on Honey Creek Drive and the current jail government complex. Which would include property on the former Thompson Honda at 1st and Ohio Streets.

County Commissioner Brenden Kearns said they did get the appraisal for the last potential property.

That means they have appraisals for every potential site.

They're expected to give an update to a judge next week.

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