While it sounds like the County Council does not have the power to overturn today’s decision, I still feel it is important to raise our voices and let our elected officials know that we disagree with this decision. Below is the letter I sent this evening to share my thoughts.
Dear County Council Members,
I am gravely disappointed in the County Commissioners’ unanimous vote to commit $45 million of taxpayer money to transform the former Wilson Middle School into an expanded county jail. I am asking you to vote to stop this initiative in its tracks at your June 26thmeeting by voting to deny authorization to borrow this sum of money for this purpose.
As the founder of Muncie’s only public charter school, I was approached by multiple community members who encouraged me to pursue acquiring the former Wilson Middle School building through legislation that empowers charter schools to acquire unused district school buildings at little to no cost. I did not move forward with this because our organization was too young to take on such expansion so quickly and because being located within the city center is important to the mission of our school. When I first heard that discussions about transforming the former Wilson Middle School into a jail were taking place, I was sad and angry that our community had closed a beautiful school and was entertaining these discussions, and I was frustrated that I was not in a position to intervene.
As a community, we must ask ourselves why our population has decreased and the need for incarceration has increased. Something is very wrong, and we must address the issues, not just lock more people in jail cells. Incarcerating people does not fix anything. It is just a way to temporarily contain a problem while stripping people of their dignity and doing nothing to address the issues.
I serve children everyday who could easily be tagged as some of your first inmates as this new incarceration facility, a facility that should have been a facility used to prepare them for a life as productive citizens. Inspire Academy has the highest percentage of students on free and reduced lunch of any of the schools in Delaware County, and we work daily to empower students to break cycles of addiction and poverty through education. And yet, the county and the city contribute no funds to the operation of our public school. The state government contributes funds. The federal government contributes funds. But my city and county contribute nothing to the education of 200 of their students in PK – 8th Grade facing the barrier of poverty every single day. It is a hard pill to swallow that my county officials are willing to invest $45 million dollars to the future incarceration of some of my students without contributing $1 to the education of my students.
Yes, I am angry. Yes, I am an active citizen. Yes, I am a public servant. Yes, I work every day to make our city and county a better place. And yes, I vote. (I also have a good bit of influence on the voting opinions of others.) The county commissioners did not stand by their responsibility to represent the people today and voted to encumber our county with significant debt and a disgraceful stain of moving toward more mass incarceration that the public is saying with unified voice, “No, we don’t want this!” (not to mention the concerning lack of bids and centrality of one LLC to the entire project) I am asking you to vote to stop this initiative in its tracks at your June 26thmeeting by voting to deny authorization to borrow this sum of money for this purpose.