Mayor, Marion County sheriff to propose new criminal justice center

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– Mayor Greg Ballard and Marion County Sheriff John Layton will show rare unity Wednesday morning when they go before community leaders to solicit input on building a new criminal justice center to house jail cells, courts and offices in one location.

The announcement will be made before the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee.

“We can actually build this new facility and not have to raise taxes, doing it within the existing budgets and pay for it with the savings that we would generate by building a modern single facility,” said the mayor’s spokesman Marc Lotter.

The current jail is approximately 50 years and never built to anticipate the prisoner population or technology needs of the 21st century.

When the City-County Building was opened in 1962, it was home to 16 courts.

There are now 38 courts in the building and shackled inmates walk through crowded hallways on a daily basis to stand before a judge.

“The security for the courts and the City-County Building is horrible,” said Prosecutor Terry Curry, whose staff must literally walk within feet of the violent men and women they are trying to send to prison. “It’s amazing to me that we’ve avoided any sort of horrible problem up to now.”

Finally a shortcoming that has been decades in the making is gaining the bi-partisan support necessary to craft a solution that has already paid off in a revitalized downtown through other public/private partnerships.

“This would combine all the criminal courts, Jail 1, Jail 2, the Arrestee Processing Center, juvenile detention, juvenile courts, probation, community corrections, prosecutor, public defender, all of those all under one roof so this would be considerably larger than a new jail or just a new courthouse,” said Lotter.

The mayor and the sheriff believe that the recovery of the economy, and the availability of financing for private developers at attractive rates, makes the timing right to seek proposals from builders and judges and the public on a new justice center.

“The motivation here is to reorganize the entire criminal justice system and move people more efficiently through the system,” said Layton’s legal counsel Kevin Murray. “If we’re all together in one building and we’re all in that boat and we’re rowing in the same direction, we’re going to get there quicker.”

With inmates spread throughout four different facilities, plus the eastside juvenile detention center, Layton employs hundreds of deputies who spend their days shuttling offenders between jail cells and courtrooms.

“I can tell you that you will save thousands of man hours and a lot of tax money just by not having to physically drive suspects from one facility to a courthouse into another facility back and forth and overtime that requires a lot of manpower, that requires specialized vehicles, fuel, all of those kinds of things which could be housed under one roof,” said Lotter.

A unified facility would eliminate the need for multiple kitchen, medical and laundry facilities and incorporate new technology, such as video arraignment, that would reduce the number of deputies working inside the jail.

Sites such as the deserted General Motors stamping plant on Oliver Street and the former terminal at Indianapolis International Airport could be considered for the new facility.

Cost is estimated at above $300 million.

The mayor would be shopping for a private developer to finance and build the center and gradually sell it back to the county over the course of 30 years.

Lotter is hopeful the proposal can be finalized by the end of 2014.