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Citizens with Help Not Handcuffs respond to federal judge hearing on Allen County Jail

At a hearing last week, U.S. District Court Judge Damon R. Leichty pressured Allen County Council to support the County Commissioners' one and only plan to build a costly new jail by the end of October.

  • Leichty said it is "too late" for council to backpedal on the commissioners' plan. The Journal Gazette reports that more than 20 members of two citizen groups (Help Not Handcuffs Coalition and Allen County Residents Against the Jail) attended the hearing and rallied outside the federal courthouse before it began.
  • The JG reports: "Leichty said he appreciates their feedback, but none of the (alternative project) options they listed are viable for this situation."
  • If council fails to act by the end of the month, it could be added to the current lawsuit or face a new one. Leichty might also make a “prisoner for prisoner” order in Allen County, capping the maximum jail occupants and only accepting new prisoners as they are released.
  • In response to hearing, Help Not Handcuffs Coalition sent us the following statement:
"Our Coalition was extremely disappointed in the outcome of the latest federal hearing. Even though Judge Leichty stated in opening remarks that the court would not make any decisions regarding how the Commissioners would finance a jail project, by the end of the hearing he essentially threatened action against the County Council if they did not agree to some sort of funding before November 1. During the course of the hearing, all parties (including the ACLU) save ours refused once more to acknowledge that viable alternatives very likely exist—as presented by ACRAJ (Allen County Residents Against the Jail)—or should be further explored, as requested by several Council members. Even Allen County Superior Court Judge Fran Gull wrote a letter opposing the Commissioners' current proposed plan, which was shared with the court. None of this ultimately mattered, as the judge made a comment that having come this far down a path, it seems too late to back pedal. So it would seem that unless County Council remains steadfast in its refusal to raise our taxes to pay for a new jail, residents of Allen County are going to be paying for a very expensive and expansive new jail that they don't really want. Our Coalition will continue to speak in opposition to this plan and urges everyone in the community to contact County officials—especially County Council to share their opinion. We expect an item to be on this week's agenda at the October 19 Council business meeting and would encourage everyone to join us in person to make public comments at the beginning of that meeting, too."