Mayor Joe Hogsett formally announces former Citizens Energy coke plant as site for new jail

Joe Hogsett makes announcement on Jan. 31, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett made it official Tuesday morning, announcing that the Criminal Justice Reform Task Force chose the former Citizens Energy coke plant on the east side as the site of a new criminal justice complex.

Hogsett and other city-county officials made the announcement Tuesday morning. Hogsett called it a “key milestone” in his plans to reform criminal justice in Marion County.

The plant processed coke, a fuel derived from coal. It closed in 2007 due to an inability to compete against lower cost coke suppliers from China, according to Citizens Energy Group.

“Since its operations ceased in 2007, this part of town has been hit particularly hard,” Hogsett said. “That is why we mark today’s announcement as a joyous occasion.”

Hogsett said community leaders “tirelessly advocated” for the site. He said the site has its “share of challenges” but believes the city will rise to the challenge and “be the better for it.”

“As much as today is about where we stand, it is far more about where we are going,” he said. “”The complex that we build here will reflect how we value the well-being of each and every one of our citizens.”

Hogsett said the complex will ensure that justice is served and that those in need of help will receive it. He believes the new complex will “change lives” and the “history” of Indianapolis.

Marion County Sheriff Layton said the jail hasn’t kept up with the times. He called the new complex “progress as promised by the mayor” and believes the new facility will allow for programs to help inmates and reduce instances of reoffending.

“I’m not doing this for John Layton,” the sheriff said. “I’m doing it for you, your grandkids, your kids. I’m doing it for the citizens of Marion County of the future, because we need it. I’ve been with the old jail for 44 years. It’s tough and it’s not conducive to 2017. It’s just not what we need.”

Ex-Mayor Greg Ballard’s plan to build a new criminal justice complex on the site of the former GM Stamping Plant failed in 2015 when there wasn’t the political or financial support to green light the eventual $1.8 billion project.

Hogsett’s task force utilized a 2013 market survey done for the Ballard administration to identify a dozen potential complex sites stretching from the county’s west to east sides. Hogsett said during Tuesday’s news conference that several sites were considered, with factors under consideration including central location and the amount of space available.

The Task Force conducted dozens of public meetings throughout Marion County in 2016 as it developed the reform plan which also calls for changes in arrests, incarceration, bond and probation for offenders along with off-ramping arrestees with mental illness, substance abuse or homeless issues.

The next step is to arrange financing, develop a construction schedule, request bids and pick a builder. A plan for financing the $500 million project is due Feb. 27.

Planners envision offices for prosecutors, public defenders, community corrections, probation and medical personnel at the site. Neighbors predict the center will bring jobs and economic opportunities to the nearby Norwood and Twin Aire communities.