Reuben Engagement Center to survive APC closing

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - The Reuben Engagement Center on the second floor of the Arrestee Processing Center on E. Market St. is the temporary forerunner to a key cog of Indianapolis Mayor Hogsett’s plans to remake Marion County’s criminal justice system.

Despite the departure of its initial executive director six months after opening and the pending closure of the booking and offender holding facility downstairs, the Reuben Engagement Center is expected to continue and perhaps expand operations in the coming year.

The mayor anticipates spending more than two million dollars housing the homeless, sobering up the drunk or drug addicted and counseling the mentally troubled in the 30-bed unit that serves as an alternative to jail for offenders who aren’t so dangerous.

“This budget also continues to support criminal justice reform initiatives under the Office of Public Health and Safety,” Mayor Hogsett told city county councilors while unveiling his 2018 city spending plan last week, “including the Reuben Engagement Center which opened in January.”

Eskenazi Health expects to hire a new executive director for the Reuben Center in the next thirty days, right about the same time Marion County Sheriff John Layton has vowed to close the doors of the APC downstairs, presumably to move booking and identification services to the former lock up in the basement of IMPD headquarters at the City County Building.

Layton’s move was prompted by a Marion Superior Court decision to pull the bail commissioners who preside over initial hearings at the APC in a cost cutting and efficiency move and relocate those commissioners and all their proceedings to the CCB.

One advantage to the Reuben Center’s second-floor location in the APC was that it provided an immediate incarceration alternative one flight up for offenders brought to the booking area down below who would be better served with treatment instead of jail.

Diverting such low risk offenders is a major component to Mayor Hogsett’s proposed $570 million criminal justice complex to be constructed on E. Prospect St. east of Fountain Square.

In late July, the city started dispatching Mobile Crisis Assistance teams consisting of a police officer, an Indianapolis Emergency Management Services crew member and a social worker to respond to calls on the east side that may involve minor crimes committed by mentally ill, substance addicted or homeless offenders.

MCAT crews have handled 95 patients in the first month in an attempt to offer help instead of handcuffs.

While IMPD Chief Bryan Roach has met with Layton to discuss handing off of the responsibility for transportation, booking, identification and hospital security for arrestees, any permanent solution may not occur until months after the sheriff’s announced closure date of September 24 due to training, facility, manpower and vehicle issues.