July 26, 2006 Indianapolis Star Editorial


We're Still Waiting for Long-term Fix


Our position: Emergency fix is welcome, but public safety system needs an overhaul.
The decision by Mayor Bart Peterson and Sheriff Frank Anderson to rent an additional 200 beds at the privately operated Jail II is a necessary emergency step to address chronic overcrowding at the Marion County Jail. It's also a sign of unusual bipartisanship, given that Republican Prosecutor Carl Brizzi previously had floated a similar idea and has endorsed the new plan.
For those reasons, the move is welcome.
But the plan also fits the longtime pattern of short-term thinking that got the city into this crisis in the first place.
City and county officials have had numerous chances to build a criminal justice complex, including a courthouse and a jail, since the late 1970s. They've also taken a pass on solving the long-term funding for the pre-1977 public safety pensions, whose insolvency is draining much-needed revenues for adding police.
From Peterson's addition of 200 IPD officers through a short-term federal grant to Anderson's move to increase the number of reserve officers, there have been too many Band-Aid measures.
The creation of the Criminal Justice Planning Council, along with last year's increase in the county-option income tax and the approval of police consolidation, were significant steps toward a long-term solution. But an overhaul of public safety, a system the mayor himself describes as broken, remains undone.
One move that would help is for Superior Court judges to streamline their operations through such measures as restricting the granting of continuances. A financing plan to build a new campus for courts and a jail also is needed.
Adding more jail beds, made possible by borrowing $1.5 million from existing funds, is essential now. A long-term fix, however, needs to emerge soon.