New Leaf – New Life, Inc., sent the following statement to the Bloomingtonian in the form of a press release:
Monroe County and the city of Bloomington continue to engage in deeper discussions about the
potential of a new jail being built in our community. New Leaf, New Life (NLNL) has over 15 years of
direct experience supporting individuals in Monroe County while they’re incarcerated and after they’re
released. NLNL has a unique vantage point and believes it is necessary and productive to share our
thoughts and concerns with community members and those in decision making positions.
First and foremost, we believe that the conversation has over-indexed on building a new jail
facility (e.g., the size, location, and associated capital investment) when only 1 of the 4 guiding principles
of the Monroe County Community Justice Response Committee and only 7 of over 30 recommendations
in “Monroe County, Indiana 2020 Criminal Justice & Incarceration Study” pertain to the jail facility.
Furthermore, several aspects of the current proposal (e.g, to build a new bigger jail on the outskirts of
town for $60-70M investment) are either not necessary and/or actually make it more difficult to achieve
the desired justice, public safety, and community wellness.
A bigger jail is not required and will produce barriers to improving the criminal legal system.
● Historically, whenever a criminal legal system has access to a bigger jail, it finds people to fill it.
Presently, the population capacity of the jail creates an external incentive for the local criminal
legal system to avoid incarcerating non-dangerous persons and lengthy pretrial detention. If
that capacity is increased and the population constraints are removed, it is likely that the system
will respond by caging more people for longer – increasing recidivism rates, not reducing them.
● Cheaper, immediately available solutions to jail overcrowding remain available by simply not
incarcerating people for technical probation violations, low-level and non-violent crimes, and
returning to use or substance use violations.
● A bigger jail, with a larger pre-trial population accused of non-violent crimes, does nothing to
make our community safer but does diminish our ability to provide justice for all (e.g., those that
can’t afford to bond out) and does diminish our ability to provide services that are needed (e.g.,
more mental health care) because tax dollars are going to fund a big jail instead of improving
mental health care.
The location is inaccessible and creates barriers for those experiencing poverty and oppression.
● It is difficult to think of a better location for the jail than where it is now. Currently, the jail and
courts are accessible by foot or bus from Shalom Community Center (Beacon), NLNL, Wheeler
Mission, and the transit station. The new proposed location is nearly five miles outside of
Bloomington downtown proper, with no clear public transit or safe alternative to reaching it
other than by personal vehicle. Without a reliable, consistent, and safe method of
transportation for anyone who may need to visit the new facility or who is released from that
facility, it is difficult to endorse the new jail’s location.The jail should provide constitutional levels of safety and care (including at the current jail location).
● Constitutional levels of inmate safety and care are likely not being provided at this time at the
current jail facility. The jail is 36 years old, and has abysmal access to medical, psychological, or
other services. A new jail would presumably meet constitutional level of care – but does nothing
to address current issues with existing jail. It is unacceptable for any proposal to be silent on
addressing care issues within the current jail, during the interim period between now and if or
when a new facility may be built.
The $70M price tag for a new jail is both fiscally and socially irresponsible.
● The new/bigger/remote jail will not reduce recidivism rates – and in fact may increase them.
● The heavy price tag limits Monroe County’s investment capacity needed for areas that will
clearly move us forward toward desired justice, public safety and community wellness.
Ultimately, the issue is a complicated one. Ideally, NLNL would like to see fewer people in jail.
We would like to see the issues that lead to criminal legal involvement addressed outside of jail
(increased access to treatment, housing, mental health support, etc.). However, when individuals do end
up incarcerated, it’s important that all people are treated with dignity and respect, are safe from
violence, receive proper medical care, and are able to maintain prescribed medications.
If you would like to explore alternatives to incarceration or would like more information on how
NLNL is helping to reduce recidivism in our community, please check out our website: