Have you ever wondered what happens to the people who have been arrested for drunkenness or aggressive panhandling downtown? Many believe that the homeless population makes up the majority of public intoxication arrests in the Downtown area. However, that is not the case. Statistics show that the majority of the men and women arrested for intoxication are twenty-somethings.
South Meridian Street is a weekend destination for many adults who come to soak in the vibrant Downtown atmosphere. Most drink responsibly. Even those who have imbibed beyond Indiana’s .08% limit do not create a situation that requires police intervention. In fact, there are many times when officers beg for people to leave. Yet, in some cases, that reptilian part of the brain becomes the decision-maker when C2H5OH is present in abundance. For anyone arrested, there can be serious consequences: a criminal conviction.
Enter the Impact Panels. The Impact Panels are comprised of volunteers, people who are or want to be involved with their community. It is an opportunity to talk with low-level offenders and explain how their behavior can have far-reaching effects. For instance, think about an intoxicated person who decides to publicly urinate. How do parents shield their children from the exhibition? Or, would any of us want a prostitute operating in front of our home or business?
The Impact Panel, does not embarrass participants. It is a positive experience that encourages discussion and in most cases is effective. There are few repeat attendees, with most accepting responsibility for their actions and a plan to not make the same bad decision. It is a good way to get involved, and to make a difference in our community and neighborhoods as well as Downtown.
“The Community Impact Panel is a form of restorative justice utilized by the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office that holds offenders accountable for committing quality of life crimes that negatively affect the community. These include public intoxication, disorderly conduct, prostitution and panhandling to name a few. Volunteers from the community engage the offenders in a dialogue and explain how criminal behavior impacts the quality of life in the community. The panel also helps the offenders take personal responsibility for their actions and holds them accountable” according to Mark Taxter, Impact Panel coordinator, Marion County Prosecutor’s Office.
Community Impact Panels are held each Tuesday morning from 9 – 11 a.m. at the Community Court located at 902 Virginia Ave. The Impact Panel that directly addresses issues for Downtown Indianapolis meets the final Tuesday of every month.