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Justice Involved?

What does the term, "justice involved" mean? Well, it's a relatively new way to say someone has open court cases, is on probation or parole, or is awaiting sentencing. Those in the recovery community are always trying to find ways to keep from labeling those we serve and to make terms sound nicer, and I think that's largely a good thing. This is certainly a term which softens the blow. That is unless you're a justice involved individual. In which case you likely understand there is nothing just about our system, that in fact we have a legal system, not a justice system. So, really you're legal involved and that sounds like, well, honestly like you'd just rather say, "on probation" or "awaiting sentencing" or "out on bail".


Why do I bring up this term today? Because it helps explain "those people" you see in mug shots and most wanted and the like on social media and on local "news" sites. It disgusts me that InkFree News dropped its coverage of high school sports and instead increased its listings of Kosciusko's Most Wanted. Here's why - many in such listings are already in custody or have tried to turn themselves in. Others have no idea they're being sought. And in most cases a technical violation of probation conditions means going back to jail on the original offense. Want to guess what shows up online? Yeah, the original offense. Try holding a job when that happens, or renewing a lease, or even attending your child's event.


In Kosciusko County safe, affordable housing is out of reach for many people. If they can afford it, their justice involved status precludes them obtaining it. Or, they may not have enough to pay first and last month rent plus a damage deposit while just starting a new job. What options are there then? Well, going to live with friends or family is one right? But what if friends and family are still in active addiction? Then what? Hotels require a credit card - or at least a debit card and will often put a hold on more funds than the cost of the room for days. Homeless shelter? Yep, we've got one in this county ,but it is at capacity. So, that means going to Elkhart, Whitley, or Allen County. But if you have a job - which most of our clients do - that means traveling clear back to Kosciusko County daily for work. At $3.75 a gallon of gas that adds up quickly.


So you begin to bounce from place to place. To the uninformed, you aren't homeless. But where do you get your mail? And guess how court communications come...yep - by US Mail. If you miss a check in or status hearing that is grounds for a probation violation or failure to appear charge. LITE has lots of clients in that spot. Collect enough of those and you have a warrant issued for your arrest. What if you have gotten parking or loitering tickets in your homelessness? Where do those summons get mailed? And if you're traveling across county lines, you may now have courts in multiple counties trying to find you. Being arrested in one could cause you to miss court in another county. And that is no excuse; it's another warrant. We see this daily.


So, next time you see the most wanted postings, remember this. Take a moment to think about the backstory and wonder how that human got in that spot. Empathy goes a long way. And if it goes so far as to move you to help, please reach out to LITE and ask how you can. 574-306-0006 or chris@literecoverycafe.org



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