UUI, Faith in Indiana, and Criminal Justice Reform

Quick summary for busy people: UUI is supporting incredible criminal justice reform and violence reduction strategies for Indianapolis through our work with Faith in Indiana. This is Faith in Indiana’s top priority for 2019. The next meeting of the UUI Faith in Indiana team is Tuesday, March 26, 7pm at UUI. Come join us!

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Did you know that in Indianapolis, 40 percent of jail inmates are classified as suffering from a mental illness and 85 percent have substance abuse problems? DId you know that in cities plagued by violence, less than half a percent of the population is responsible for three-quarters of the violent crimes?

Since 2014 Faith in Indiana (formerly IndyCAN) has been working with Indianapolis local government and law enforcement to promote criminal justice reform that favors intervention and treatment over incarceration for non-violent offenders and a targeted, data-driven response to the chronic perpetrators of violence. These are proven strategies that have worked in cities all around the country. For example, studies show the CIncinnati Initiative to Reduce VIolent Crime, using these principles, resulted in an almost immediate decrease of 35% in gang-related violence.

UUI has been a member of Faith in Indiana since 2014, so I wanted to share with you some of the work that you are supporting in our city around criminal justice reform.

Many of you were part of the effort in 2014 when Faith in Indiana blocked a massive prison expansion that would have committed the city to another generation of mass incarceration of our young people just at the time when most cities were abandoning these failed practices. Many of you were present at Faith in Indiana’s 2016 Criminal Justice Reform Summit when FII brought in experts around the country to show our city what is possible and to advocate for a different vision for our future. In 2016 Mayor Hogsett incorporated many of Faith in Indiana’s principles into his Criminal Justice Reform Task Force. This was in part due to years of lobbying, education, and deep community conversations on the part of Faith in Indiana leaders.

In 2017 Indianapolis began a pilot program on the East side called the Mobile Crisis Intervention Team (MCAT). This project pairs a police officer with a paramedic and a clinician to respond to 911 calls and properly assess behavioral or mental health needs. It has resulted in a 95% drop in arrests in these kinds of interventions. A 2018 assessment study found that officers overwhelmingly identified this program as helpful to their work.

In November of 2018 the City Council voted 24-1 to pass a Criminal Justice overhaul program that includes a robust crisis intervention center to divert those struggling with addiction and mental illness to treatment not jail. Inside Indiana Business reports Sheriff Layton’s view that “one of the most exciting features of the new campus will be the Assessment and Intervention Center, which will allow those brought in with substance abuse issues to be separated and evaluated instead of "warehousing" them with the rest of the jail population.”

In celebrating this victory, Faith in Indiana notes: “The vote follows more than a year of meetings with Faith in Indiana leaders directly impacted by mass incarceration, public officials, and criminal justice leaders.”

Faith in Indiana has chosen criminal justice reform and reducing violence in our city as its priority for 2019. That will mean advocating for new reforms and working with the Mayor, the City Council, and local community groups to implement changes that are already underway. The UUI Faith in Indiana team will be a part of this movement to create a better future for Indianapolis. The next meeting is Tuesday, March 26, 7-8:30pm in the Cottage Library. Come bring your ideas, energy, and talents!