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Community talks continue for new detention center

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

The Henry County Jail runs 24 hours a day. The people looking for solutions for local jail conditions are staying almost as busy.

Community volunteers and elected officials are working side by side on several committees to look at the jail from all different angles.

Jerry Cash coordinates efforts of the Alternatives To Incarceration (ATI) committee.

The ATI committee is looking for ways to stop people from ending up in jail in the first place.

Many of Henry County’s inmates have some alleged charge or another related to substances, whether it is for drunk drive or drug possession.

The Alternatives To Incarceration group has been focused on improving community access to substance abuse programs and maybe integrating those interventions into the current jail or a newly designed detention center.

At the ATI committee’s January meeting, the consensus was “addiction is still a core problem.”

While incarceration keeps people off the street, it doesn’t necessarily treat the underlying addictions.

Cash has reached out to the “Drug Free Wayne County Partnership” and hopes to set up a local presentation at a future ATI meeting.

The Alternatives To Incarceration committee also includes representatives from Meridian and Centerstone mental healthcare facilities, Brianna’s Hope addiction support, Henry County A.R.I.E.S., the LIVE Coalition and the Ball State University Criminal Justice program.

The committee recently heard from Henry County Chief Probation Officer Susan Lightfoot and Henry County Community Corrections Executive Director Joni Williams.

The probation office works with certain Henry County offenders to help them take responsibility for their actions, address personal rehabilitation needs and stay out of jail.

Community Corrections is responsible for electronic monitoring, day reporting, local drug court and community service programs.

“Personally, I felt really good about what these organizations are already doing,” Cash said.

Cash is also impressed by the level of involvement he’s seen from local mental health and addiction support providers.

Now that the Alternatives To Incarceration committee has a better understanding of what programs are already in place in Henry County, the group can look at ways to augment those programs.

Several Henry County representatives, including members of the ATI committee, have also met with counterparts from Madison County to discuss the potential of a “regional approach” to detention facilities, Cash said.

Henry County Commissioner Kim Cronk said state lawmakers are also working on ways to fund a possible regional detention center.