County, Indy Make Pitch For New Justice Center

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A Request for Qualifications will be issued this month for a new Marion County Criminal Justice Complex. Officials have not selected a location for the project, opting to leave that up to market conditions. The new complex will replace outdated facilities that currently house several parts of the Marion County criminal justice system. December 11, 2013

News Release

Indianapolis, Ind. – Building upon three decades of discussion, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, Marion Superior Court Judge David Certo and Marion County Sheriff John Layton today announced plans for a new criminal justice complex to replace the outdated and deteriorating facilities that currently house much of Marion County’s criminal justice system.

During a meeting of the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee (GIPC) board of directors, officials detailed plans for a criminal justice complex, which would include adult and juvenile detention facilities; criminal and juvenile courts; offices of the prosecutor, public defender and sheriff; probation offices; community corrections; and the possibility of additional offices such as the coroner’s office and the crime lab.

“Marion County’s jail and court facilities are aging, inefficient and unsafe,” said Mayor Greg Ballard. “After decades of study, now is the time for Indy to build a new, modern facility that will improve public safety and generate enough efficiencies to pay for this new complex within the existing budget, without a tax increase.”

The project calls for the relocation of detention and criminal court facilities into one campus, including separate adult and juvenile jails and inmate processing. Offices that currently house the prosecutor, public defender, probation and community corrections also would relocate to the new complex. Offices for the clerk, coroner, crime lab and other state and federal agencies could follow.

“Our mission in the Marion Superior Court compels us to provide an appropriate, safe and accessible setting for litigants and the public. The outdated layout of our current facilities prevents us from meeting these goals with our courtrooms, offices, public spaces,” said Judge Certo. “I enthusiastically support this long overdue effort to create a new and safer court facility.”

Marion County expects to fund the project from the reallocation of budget dollars for current contracts and leases that are set to expire, as well as from reduced operational costs and future revenue sources such as federal arrestee contracts and private retail rental on the new property. Current plans call for no new taxes to fund the criminal justice complex.

“We must ensure the safety and security of city and county employees and the hundreds of thousands of citizens who pass through our current buildings,” said Marion County Sheriff John Layton who cited the fact that 70,000 inmates now move through the City-County Building every year alongside victims, jurors and witnesses and those doing business with city and county agencies.

Any new design would eliminate numerous hazards such as radio dead zones and blind spots while creating safer conditions for staff, litigants and other visitors who now occupy the same shared space as violent offenders, said Sheriff Layton. For example, Jail 1’s outdated design requires that inmates are guarded at a much higher ratio, with one guard needed for every three inmates, to effectively separate certain inmates.

To help ease overcrowding of the jail, the project will add a minimum of 1,000 new jail beds for an approximate total of 3,400 by the time construction is completed. The new judicial center also would include space for 25-30 courtrooms, providing relief for the nearly 40 Circuit and Superior Courts now housed in the City County Building.

Significant cost savings are expected to result from bringing the various components of the criminal justice system into one area. All buildings will use shared resources, such as central security, food preparation, warehousing, medical, laundry and maintenance services, as well as a central utility plant, with ample public parking for 2,000.

Consolidation also serves to reduce transportation expenses. Moving inmates through the current system adds tens of thousands of dollars in additional security costs and impacts court proceedings.

“We now have county officials and employees spread around such a wide area, that by consolidating everyone into one campus, we will create much greater efficiencies, save significant tax dollars and improve the safety of our community,” said Mayor Ballard.

In addition, some non-criminal justice agencies currently located outside the City-County Building could return to the downtown location. Officials are hopeful that the moving of criminal justice facilities to a new location will free up downtown property that could serve as a boon for additional economic development.

Jail 1, Jail 2 and Community Corrections facilities occupy land that was recently valued at $17.6 million.

The location of the Marion County Criminal Justice Complex has not been determined. The Request for Qualifications (RFQ), set to be issued December 20, will allow the market to determine the best possible location based on numerous considerations such as ownership, price and available utilities.

Another key consideration of the potential site is accessibility. The City is committed to working with IndyGo to ensure that people can get to and from the Marion County Criminal Justice Complex with ease.

Officials will begin evaluating proposals beginning February 2014 with final selection by September 2014 when the City County Council will vote on the firm that is selected. Construction can then begin in early 2015 for potential opening in 2018.

“Since being built in 1963, the City-County Building has become one of the most dangerous places in our otherwise proud city due to its inefficient design for handling a modern-day criminal justice system. It’s time we change that to better serve our city and county for the proper administration of justice for years to come,” said Sheriff Layton.Source: Office of the Indiana Mayor