South Bend town hall promotes treatment over incarceration for the mentally ill

NOW: South Bend town hall promotes treatment over incarceration for the mentally ill

SOUTH BEND, Ind. —- On Sunday, a South Bend faith-based group hosted a town hall urging local administrators to pursue treatment for mentally ill individuals instead of jail time.

Faith leaders with Faith in St. Joseph County spoke to a crowd of more than a hundred people at the Sinai Synagogue about the effects of treatment versus incarceration. Rabbi Michael Friedland said individuals should be assisted with treatment and rehabilitation. 

The group invited St. Joseph County Commission President Andy Kostielney, South Bend Common Council President Tim Scott, and St. Joseph County Sheriff William Redman. The three officials pledged to dedicate 2020 budget funds to implement jail diversion strategies proposed during the event including pre-arrest diversion programs, peacemaker fellowships, and end money bail. 

According to the group, there are currently 620 inmates at the county jail which is 106 more than a 2015 total. Sheriff Redman said people dealing with substance abuse and mental illnesses are being sentenced to local jails. 

“We currently have 90 inmates that are in our facility that have been found guilty of a crime that are serving their sentence in our jail instead of the Department of Corrections,” said Sheriff Redman. 

He said he and other sheriffs in the state have to deal with those extra costs. However, he said there is an upside because inmates are able to stay close to their loved ones while at the county jail. 

Dion Payne-Miller, 16, said many of his family members and friend has cycled through the county jail. He said jail is not the answer. 

“Putting then in jail isn’t doing anything,” said Payne-Miller. 

Payne-Miller said jail encourages a never-ending cycle of children seeing adults dealing with mental illnesses inside of the criminal justice system. He said treatment programs will break a generational curse in St. Joseph County. 

“Not only will it help them have a better life in the future but I think it’ll help our community,” said Payne-Miller. 

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