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Help Not Handcuffs unveils pledge in response to jail plans

Help Not Handcuffs
Ella Abbott
Members of the Help Not Handcuffs coalition sell t-shirts following a press conference speaking out against the county's plan to build a new jail on the southeast side and unveiling a pledge for community leaders on Wednedsay, August 10, 2022.

Help Not Handcuffs, a coalition speaking out against the building of a new jail on the southeast side of Fort Wayne, announced a pledge for elected officials, community leaders and business owners to take a stand against the new jail. Community members have multiple concerns about the location.

The new jail is slated to be built on 70-acres at the Allen County Sheriff’s training facility in southeast Fort Wayne – and down the road from Paul Harding Junior High School.

The coalition Help Not Handcuffs is pledging to oppose the jail and encouraging other leaders in the community to join them.

Members of the coalition say putting the jail on the southeast side perpetuates harmful stereotypes about the neighborhood, which is already a federally designated healthcare and food desert.

Destiny Life Church Pastor Karen Staton said of the decision to place the jail on the southeast side…

Ella Abbott
Fort Wayne educator Cookye Rutledge speaks at a Help Not Handcuffs press conference in front of Citizen Square on Wednesday, August 10, 2022.

“Where citizens are already victims of systemic racism and redlining, is absolutely ludicrous.”

The choice to build the 350 million dollar facility so near to several schools has also come under scrutiny. At an Allen County Commissioners meeting last month, commissioner Richard Beck said the new jail will need to accommodate “the next two generations.”

Cookye Rutledge is an educator in Fort Wayne. She said the expectation that the next two generations will fill the jail shows a lack of respect from the commissioners.

“That’s what our commissioners think of our babies," Rutledge said. "That our babies are going to be incarcerated and filling up those jails.”

Allen County is under a federal court order to address the issue of jail overcrowding. The county announced this summer they intended to do so by constructing a new facility.

Help Not Handcuffs has spoken out against the building of a new jail anywhere, because they believe the overcrowding should be handled by addressing things like the mental illness of prisoners and helping to curb repeat offenders.

At a press conference, the coalition also announced plans to hold a protest in the Save-a-Lot parking lot down the street from the proposed location on August 12.

Ella Abbott is a multimedia reporter for 89.1 WBOI. She is a strong believer in the ways audio storytelling can engage an audience and create a sensory experience.