VANDERBURGH COUNTY, Ind. (WEHT) – Primary elections are just around the corner, which means the candidates are out in the community. Sheriff candidates Jason Ashworth, Noah Robinson and Jeff Hales held a meet and greet and forum at the Fraternal Order of Police in Evansville. When the three candidates, some of their ideas may have differed, but they all agreed that Vanderburgh County needs to implement more rehabilitation programs into law enforcement.
Officials say the Vanderburgh County jail has been overcrowded since day one, pushing for a jail expansion. But each sheriff candidate says a larger jail doesn’t mean they should arrest more people.
Sheriff candidate Noah Robinson said, “I wish jail expansion wasn’t necessary. But it is. Wishing something weren’t the case doesn’t make it so.”
Candidate Jason Ashworth said, “we have people there sleeping on the floors, we have all the clients that we need.”
Ashworth, Robinson and Hales all have ideas to expand rehab programs for substance abuse and mental health.
“Making sure that we’re providing treatment to those, those inmates that are in the facility and getting them off the drug, so they can return their communities and proceed to have a drug free lifestyle,” said Robinson.
“We need to provide space for treatment, for the programs that we have, for our pregnant moms that are in our facility, and to be able to treat those in our facility with a mental illness,’ added Ashworth.
Candidate Jeff Hales said, “I think an education is the biggest thing educating people about because what I know about opioids it is very, very, very hard to kick.”
Hales stressed that inmates need the opportunity to learn more skills while incarcerated. “I think what we need to do is we need to look at helping them with a GED process. And I also think we need to look at maybe giving them doing trade schools or trade something in the within the jail to teach them how to weld. If we’re going to be in the jail welding, if we’ve got people that want to learn how to weld, or this is going to teach them that teach them plumbing because we got to do all of that stuff.”
Hales also added that he thinks there could even be a garden where inmates learn how to grow fruits and vegetables and could potentially sell them to the public.
Ashworth and Robinson stated that they would reduce arrests for possession of marijuana and instead issue citations, while Hales said he would like to be able to leave misdemeanors in the hands of his officers.
“I have seen the overdose,” said Ashworth. “I’ve been with the families who have lost loved ones to various drugs or various reasons to addiction. I’ve seen those investigations, I see the impact and the negative impact that it has on our community. Marijuana simply doesn’t have that. I’m not talking about dealers, I’m not talking about the border, I’m talking about simple possession of marijuana and dealing with the corner every single day. And knowing the priorities and what people are dying from in our community. That’s where we need to focus, focus our assets and our manpower.”
All three candidates said they believe marijuana should be legalized in Indiana.
“I believe that it brings those back alley transactions from the parking lots and back alleys into the bright light of government regulation, which makes the entire transaction safer for our kids,” added Robinson.
Although all candidates say they are for a jail expansion, Robinson said he doesn’t think the $13.5 million budget will cover everything that needs to be done, while Hales said he is concerned about where the money is coming from.