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Tuesday, April 16
The Indiana Daily Student

bloomington

County commissioners suspend CJRC meetings, cite lack of progress

cacjrc042023.jpg

The Monroe County Board of Commissioners suspended meetings for the Community Justice Response Committee at a work session Wednesday, citing a lack of progress due to conflicting priorities and perspectives.  

The CJRC is composed of the three county commissioners, three county council members, two representatives from the Monroe County Board of Judges and one representative from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, Prosecutor’s Office and Public Defender’s Office. For more than a year, the CJRC has met to discuss poor conditions of the jail, including plans to build a new county jail. 

During the work session, Commissioner Lee Jones said she felt members of the commission were pulling in different directions and being too critical of the commissioners.  

“A lot of the time it feels more like we’re on trial,” she said.  

Related: [‘It didn’t happen overnight’: Community demands humane treatment in county jail]

Jones said the committee was originally formed to look at ways to reduce the number of people in the jail by improving treatments for mental health and substance use and reducing recidivism.  

Githens said she wanted progress and was frustrated they kept being held back.  

“I don’t want people sitting in a jail that’s unconstitutional,” she said.  

Commissioner Julie Thomas agreed, saying progress was being hindered by the size of the CJRC and its conflicting opinions. 

“The taxpayer deserves better than what the CJRC has become,” Thomas said.  

Moving forward, Thomas suggested the CJRC be used as a group that receives information, asks questions and provides input, but that it shouldn’t be challenging the commissioners.  

With less involvement from the CJRC, the project to build a new jail would mostly involve decisions and input from the commissioners, county council, the sheriff and the jail commander.  

Related: [Indiana bill could extend holding period for domestic violence suspects to 24 hour]

Commissioner Githens confirmed in an email that CJRC meetings have been suspended, and the commissioners will announce later when the group will resume meeting.  

“We are forming a facilities group and have asked judges, prosecutor, public defender and others to address issues raised by our consultants, Ken Ray and Allen Beck,” she said.  

Ray owns a consulting firm based in Kentucky and Beck is president of a consultant firm based in Missouri.  

Kate Wiltz, a county council member, said in an email she was not consulted or informed about the decision to suspend the CJRC.  

Kay Weinberg, a member of Care Not Cages, an advocacy group opposed to the building of a new jail, said the last CJRC meeting on Monday was tense.  

With Commissioner Githens joining the meeting on Zoom, county councilor Peter Iversen led the meeting. After a presentation from DLZ Corporation, a consulting firm selected to design the new jail, Iversen asked if members of city government in the audience would like to ask DLZ questions.  

This prompted an inaudible exchange between Iversen and Lee Jones, and Jones walked out of the meeting and did not return.  

Care Not Cages protesters were also present at the meeting, holding up a banner that read “What are you hiding?” and cited laws against closed door meetings and destroying public records. The banner was a reference to Sheriff Ruben Marté’s concern over the process of selecting a jail design firm, which included evidence of the destruction and recreation of scoring sheets for the firms and a misrepresentation of a unanimous decision when not all members were present or chose to vote.  

Kay Weinberg read a letter that included Marté’s concerns at the meeting. The letter, obtained by the BSquare Bulletin, said a formal complaint had been filed with the Indiana Public Access Counselor due to the “closed-door nature” of the meeting.   

Weinberg told the IDS he hoped the suspension of CJRC meetings would slow the process of building a new jail so more could be done to help people currently in the jail. 

“It doesn’t appear to be a priority for the commissioners to take care of the people locked up in the jail now,” he said.  

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