FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Allen County community members brought their concerns about the proposed new Allen County Jail to the Allen County Courthouse Green Wednesday evening. The press conference was held just two days before the Allen County Commissioners and Allen County Sheriff will appear in federal court.
Wednesday’s event was a collaboration between the Help Not Handcuffs Coalition and Allen County Residents Against the Jail (ACRAJ). Residents raised many concerns including the need for more public input, addressing overcrowding, and the lack of staff.
“Getting good quality staff is something that really hasn’t been addressed yet, and we want to be able to stay on that and have some say about that as well,” said Karen Staton, Senior Pastor at Destiny Life Center Church.
Those who spoke out say there’s been a lack of transparency between Allen County Commissioners and residents. Staton said she’d like for the community to have an opportunity to have conversations with Commissioners, and a seat at the table.
“This is a project that’s going to affect generations to come and we really need to have more dialogue,” Stanton said. “We need to be able to look at some new models and some new strategies for our future so that we’re not just building bigger jails.”
Help Not Handcuffs and ACRAJ believe Commissioners are not addressing the real issues at hand. Reverend Timothy Murphy, Senior Pastor at Plymouth Congregational Church, said if they are having staffing issues now, he is concerned about how they will fix the issue with an even bigger jail.
“They can’t even staff a place for a capacity of 732. How can they possibly staff a place for 1300? It’s 80% More. Won’t that mean at least some more staff?” Murphy said. “They can’t even do it with the current size.”
Both Stanton and Murphy said even though the jail was approved to be located at 2911 Meyer Road by the Fort Wayne Board of Zoning Appeals, it’s still not too late to voice your concerns.
“I know that the land has been purchased and it’s quite a bit of waters under the bridge, but it’s not too late to sit down and have some dialogue about some things that might be helpful in our community, it’s a project that’s going to affect our children and grandchildren to come,” Staton said.
“It’s not too late when the bulldozers are in the site. It’s not too late when the foundation is being poured. It’s not too late. It is never too late as long as there are people in Allen County who believe that there’s a better way to have public safety. And in our county, it is never too late. Each decision is the next decision, but it’s never the final decision,” Murphy said.
The Allen County Commissioners will provide an update on their progress to federal judge Damon Leichty Friday at 10 a.m. at the Federal Courthouse. Allen County Council will hold a public hearing on June 7 with public comment welcome. It will be held at Citizens Square at 6:30 p.m. Help Not Handcuffs and ACRAJ encourage residents to attend and let their voices be heard.