Design for new court, jail center unveiled

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett believes the key to streamlining and fixing Marion County’s convoluted and inefficient criminal justice system is a new Community Justice Center complex on East Prospect Street.

Hogsett’s staff has now unveiled the design and financing plan for the proposed $571 million construction project.

The Administration and Finance Committee of the City County Council passed Hogsett’s request for $55 million to move ahead with the purchase of 140 acres at the former Citizens Energy Coke & Gas Plant and property in the adjacent Twin Aire neighborhood east of Fountain Square.

This appropriation follows $20 million approved last summer to begin design work on the planned courthouse, sheriff’s office, jail and assessment and intervention center.

A four-story jail and eleven-story courthouse would anchor the complex site tucked into the northeast corner of the property in the Pleasant Run Crossing area, separated from East Prospect Street by a vast parking lot.

The sheriff’s office and Assessment and Intervention Center would fill out Phase I of the plan, with a possible juvenile services building and professional office space to follow.

The Hogsett Administration released sketches of the designs.

The jail would house 2,700 general population beds and 300 specialty beds which would serve as an on-site medical care facility, along with at least 40,000 square feet set aside for inmate program services.

While consolidating several functions of Marion County’s current criminal justice and correction system downtown, the move to the new campus would free up space for other county offices and thus reduce office lease costs across county government.

Jail II, a privately-run county-owned incarceration facility on East Washington Street, would likely be remodeled to house Community Corrections and offenders serving their sentences in less restrictive work release.

At the Community Justice Campus, architects envision a boomerang-shaped high rise courthouse partially folded around a squat, rectangular jail with a two-story sheriff’s office connecting the two buildings along a perimeter.

A greenspace roundabout, approximately the size of Monument Circle, would provide vehicular access to the front door of the complex which would welcome visitors to a two-story glass entrance hall, as well as be the centerpiece to a greenway connector through the site.

Judges from the four branches of Marion County’s judiciary have granted tentative support to the plan pending design of the courthouse which includes four different courtroom and hearing room configurations.

One sketch portrays a panoramic view of downtown Indianapolis to the west of the courthouse.

The Assessment and Intervention Center would provide mental health of addiction treatment clinics along with a temporary housing unit to facilitate assessment and diversion to provide services short of a jail bed for addicted, homeless or mentally ill arrestees.

The funds appropriated by the committee, and forwarded for final council approval Jan. 29, would permit contractors to begin site preparation and construction of building pads while completing design work this summer.

The estimated construction price tag, including previously approved funds, is $571.5 million, approximately the cost to build Lucas Oil Stadium a decade ago.

Cost to Marion County taxpayers would be $48,845,750 per year beginning in 2022 to cover the life of the 35-year construction bonds.

Mayor Hogsett has promised the complex will be built without a tax increase, funded in part by $34 million in savings from currently budgeted sheriff’s office expenses and revenues as well as another $5 million in court-related savings.

Councilor Maggie Lewis, recently deposed as the democratic president of the council, questioned the need for 3,000 jail beds, an increase of approximately 500 over the current jail capacity, and asked if additional beds would simply encourage authorities and judges to incarcerate more arrestees and defendants instead of finding alternative means.

A small group of critics has called for greater spending on community corrections programs that permit offenders to await trial or serve their sentences at home under electronic monitoring.

At 4,500 offenders, Marion County has more clients in its community corrections program than any other county in the United States.

Jail II, which would potentially be the new home of Community Corrections, currently houses 1100 inmates, which would negate the need for off-site locations such as the Duvall Center where 350 men sleep off their sentences while maintaining outside employment.

The new jail would also close Hope Hall, a women’s lock up in the City County Building.

Citizens Energy Group remains responsible for mitigation of environmental hazards on the century old industrial site along the banks of Pleasant Run Creek and will plant one thousand trees.