Council committee votes “yes” on $20 million justice campus proposal

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Mayor Joe Hogsett can celebrate a victory for the team trying to make his proposed jail complex a reality.

Despite opposition, a city council committee just voted unanimously to move along a $20 million proposal for planning costs.

But first, Andy Mallon, the city’s corporation counsel, along with others, had to show councilors that their detailed financial plan is solid.

“These are numbers that we worked very closely with the sheriff and that they’ve signed off on,” said Mallon.

Councillors asked every question they could think of or their constituents had asked, including why the savings estimated by Hogsett’s team are so much lower than under mayor Greg Ballard’s unsuccessful proposal.

“It’s more conservative than where the Ballard administration was because we wanted to be extra doubly sure that money is going to be available,” said Mallon.

Mallon and another representative stated that the Ballard-era numbers didn’t account for costs that would have to be carried over to the new center and they assumed potential revenue from selling old buildings.

While councilors received answers, members of the No New Jail Coalition still had a lot of questions.

They showed up wearing red, with a “No New Jail” banner protesting taking any steps toward a justice campus.

Dozens spoke against the proposal, which they believe perpetuates the prison industrial complex, despite the changes.

They cited concerns that the new jail won’t do enough to reform the justice system or treat mental illnesses and addiction.

“I appreciate so much the taskforce and everybody here showing that there’s an absolute need to focus on mental health and addiction, however this is just not adequate,” said a man who spoke as a member of No New Jail Coalition. “It’s just not enough. “

He noted that only about 10 percent of the beds in the new jail would be “specialty” beds where people will receive mental and physical medical care, even though about forty percent of the inmates suffer from mental illness or addiction.

But while many of the councilors understood their concerns, they feel something must be done with the funding available now and without raising tax dollars.

“I truly believe this is aspirational,” said Blake Johnson, who represents the Twin Aire neighborhood where the proposed jail is set to go. “Is it perfect, no? Are we going to accomplish everything we need to in terms of providing mental healthcare? Absolutely not. But man, we’ve got to do better than we’re doing right now.”

With just one more successful vote, a team will be able to go ahead and design the proposed justice campus. The public hearing and possible vote is set for the full council meeting on Monday, July 24.
IN the meantime, a town hall for people who still have questions is planned for 6:00 Wednesday at New Wineskin Ministries on the west side.