INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Assessment and Intervention Center opens Tuesday, and the hope of Mayor Joe Hogsett is once the facility is fully operational that it will keep low-level, nonviolent offenders from filling up the county jail.
On Monday morning during the first snowfall of the season, no one wasted anytime cutting the ribbon. The Assessment and Intervention Center, already nicknamed the AIC, is part of a what will be a new justice center, but the role of people working inside is like nothing we have seen in Indianapolis.
“And so it really does represent a change in thinking about how we help individuals who are frequently incarcerated or frequently hospitalized, so you recognize sometimes that individuals feel like those are there any two options when they are in a crisis,” said Dr. Ashley Overley of Eskenazi Health.
Part of Hogsett’s judicial reform plan is getting repeat offenders — suffering from addictions, mental health issues, or other life crises — the help they need instead of putting them into a carousel of jails and hospitals.
“For people that are voluntary and don’t need hospital level of care yet still need support and housing and help assessing their needs and their goals we have people here that can make the determination about what the most helpful next step would be,” Overley said.
The first people in the door will be from the Reuben Engagement Center, a nonprofit that offers mental health and substance abuse programs to the homeless in Marion County. Two dormitories in the facility will accommodate 60 people; men and women will share the same space. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic safety precautions, for the foreseeable future the AIC will treat only 30 people.
Catherine Cummings, a commander with Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, says that police officers oftentimes have the first contact with people most in need of help. “I’m talking about trespassing, public intoxication, prostitution, low-level offenses that are criminal but they are happening because someone is struggling to live life.”
As Indianapolis struggles with one of the most violent years in recent memory, how will the AIC help curb violent crime? Cummings said, “That frees up the officer to focus on people who are committing violent offenses not people who are struggling with addiction and mental health concerns.”
The rest of the Indianapolis-Marion County Criminal Justice Campus is not expected to be completed until the end of 2021.