Folks, we have a situation in our county that you should be aware of.
It is a complicated issue, which involves mental health, our judiciary system, community corrections, law enforcement and the jail population.
Ultimately it will involve you and me as a taxpayers in Hancock County.
Do I have your attention yet?
I read an article with the headline blaring, “Jails are bracing for influx.”
The article went on to describe how many drug addicts and those with mental illnesses will be diverted from state prisons to our county jails.
This author is in no way saying that everyone who commits a crime suffers from alcoholism, drug problems or mental illness. The article shows a picture of the Franklin County sheriff, Ken Murphy.
The article voiced his concerns with the shift of the prison population. Now, I do not know Sheriff Murphy. But, I do know Sheriff Mike Shepherd and Maj. Brad Burkhart. So I started investigating. The latter are all with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department.
Here is what I found out. My state senator, Michael Crider, and State Rep. Bob Cherry supplied the history lesson.
It seems as though in 2013, our state criminal codes were revised. Rather than having Class A, B,C and D felonies, we now have Levels 1 through 6; Level 1 being the most serious of offenses and Level 6 being the least.
In the past, many Class D felons (who, for the most part, are now Level 6 offenders) were incarcerated in state prisons. Now, they are housed in county jails.
Folks we do not have the jail space, the medical personnel, the jailers, nor the recreation rooms to do this.
This really affects everyone in Hancock County. Why does it affect our elected officials? Because the council(s) must set a budget.
The judges, of course, do the sentencing. The brave men and women in law enforcement and all first responders must deal with the criminals. So you see this really does touch everyone in Hancock County.
Now in defense of the General Assembly, House Bill 1006, currently being considered this year, will provide $50 million dollars to help.
Help? It will not even be a drop in the bucket.
The money must be distributed to all 92 counties. The money does not go to alleviate jail overcrowding. It does not go to provide monies to Sheriff Shepherd for extra beds, medical treatment or manpower.
Folks, this is not a plea for another tax to be collected to house inmates. It is a plea for all of you readers to get proactive. Call your legislators. Tell them you are not happy.
I would suggest a couple of things: No. 1, get involved in your community and No. 2, voice your opinion.
This was a matter that was mandated by the state via legislation in 2013 with the revision of the criminal code.
I just know that this shift of jail population is coming. It is coming at the expense of the Hancock County taxpayer.
Now it is your turn to voice your opinion. I think I have voiced mine.
C.O. Montgomery is a former teacher and township trustee. He is a New Palestine resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.