Editor’s note: The following information from a newsletter is being published so community members can have the information needed to engage in public policy. The newsletter has been rewritten, but can be found here in its original form:
September Newsletter from Care Not Cages
September 26, 2023
Bloomington, IN – In the latest developments regarding the proposed jail site at the Thomson property, the County Commissioners have approved contracts for environmental and geotechnical studies while facing mounting community concerns. Simultaneously, a controversial decision to eliminate paper mail for inmates has raised questions about communication and isolation.
Thomson Site Studies and Community Concerns
The County is forging ahead with plans for environmental and geotechnical studies of the Thomson site, along with efforts to purchase a nearby property for site access via Strong Drive. However, these moves have stirred significant community opposition.
Wendi Goodlett of Habit for Humanity has voiced concerns about the jail’s potential impact on the nearby Osage Place neighborhood, asserting that building a jail on the Thomson property could further marginalize families the community has worked tirelessly to uplift. Residents have also raised other pressing issues, including the site’s proximity to Summit Elementary, inadequate communication with the neighborhood, and potential environmental repercussions.
Shift from Paper Mail Raises Concerns
In a move that has sparked controversy, the County is planning to eliminate traditional paper mail for individuals incarcerated in the local jail. Instead, inmates will access their mail electronically through a kiosk operated by Combined Public Communications, a private telecommunications company. This decision, justified as increasing efficiency and safety, is seen by critics as part of a broader trend to reduce or eliminate contact between incarcerated individuals and the outside world.
Listening Sessions Post Thomson Site Decision
County Commissioners held listening sessions on September 20th and 24th to gauge neighborhood sentiments about the proposed jail at the Thomson Site. Residents expressed frustration with the lack of prior communication and the sudden decision to place a jail in their neighborhood. Critics noted that while speed bumps were subject to months of public discussion, an $80 million jail proposal seemed to have received scant public input.
Some community members advocated for alternatives to incarceration and the renovation of the existing facility. Megan Betz of Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard pointed out that incarcerating individuals may exacerbate issues like food insecurity, emphasizing the need for community investments to make jails obsolete.
JFAC Delays Recommendations for County Council
The Justice Fiscal Advisory Committee (JFAC) opted to delay voting on their 35 recommendations until the County Council’s upcoming meeting on September 26th. Many of these recommendations are bureaucratic in nature, while others lack specific details. One notable recommendation, proposed by Councilmember Wiltz, suggests creating a fund to reimburse or subsidize all non-statutory fees to zero with the Board of Judges.
Other Notable Updates
- Bloomington City Council voted down an ordinance targeting unhoused individuals by banning camping, storing personal property, or blocking public right-of-way.
- The County shifted a portion of local income tax from Special Purpose LIT to Corrections LIT, potentially allowing for increased flexibility in spending, including the possibility of funding a “justice complex.”
- The Community Advisory on Public Safety Commission (CAPS) released its “Alternative Public Safety Report,” recommending the creation of a new Department of Community Safety and Resilience.
- 61 activists, including Bloomington local Maggie Gates, were indicted on RICO charges in Georgia, a move viewed by many as an attempt to stifle dissent.
Upcoming Events and Considerations
Local mutual aid organization Help Ourselves provides free food and Narcan three days a week at Seminary Park, with more information available for those interested in getting involved. Care Not Cages meetings are scheduled, and an upcoming mass nonviolent action, “Block Cop City,” is planned in Atlanta for November.
For more information on these and other updates, follow Care Not Cages on Instagram.