City of Indianapolis prepares to ‘move dirt’ on new jail site

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Mayor Joe Hogsett’s office has advised local public safety officials and city and county leaders that his administration is ready to give construction crews the green light to “move dirt” at the site of its anticipated $570 million community justice campus.

Corporation Counsel Andy Mallon informed the Criminal Justice Planning Council that remediation work at the former Citizens Energy Coke Plant on East Prospect Street has progressed sufficiently that site preparation and pad construction can begin within weeks.

The city will lease the 140-acre location from Citizens Energy Group for $2.1 million before purchasing the land for $1 once remediation is deemed completed.

Another $2.1 million will be spent to buy Twin Aire property to the north and parcels south of Prospect Street for commercial development.

Mallon unveiled plans for a privately constructed and owned professional campus which would include leased office space for public defenders, prosecutors, probation officers and other legal service employees.  Retail space is anticipated on the first floor of the office building.

The criminal justice campus would include a courthouse, sheriff’s office and jail, assessment and intervention center and a city owned but privately operated 2-3 story parking garage with 1200 spaces.

The project is being bid for delivery at a maximum guaranteed construction price to preclude cost overruns.

Those contracts will be signed this fall with ribbon cutting expected in 2020.

Hogsett said he can deliver the new campus, the most expensive municipal project since the construction of Lucas Oil Stadium and an expanded Indiana Convention Center for $750 million more than a decade ago, without a property tax increase, relying on expiring private leases for city office space and currently budgeted spending.

Relocation of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office and Jail would also open up valuable downtown real estate for redevelopment while the publicly owned but privately operated Jail II on East Washington Street would revert to county control and house Community Corrections.

Expiration of the current operator’s contract would save an estimated $20 million a year.

Mallon said that while Juvenile Courts and related offices will move to the new campus, youthful incarceration would remain at the current facility at 25th Street and Keystone Avenue.

The new jail would have 2,700 general population beds and 300 specialty beds for inmates in need of medical care along with more than 40,000 square feet of offender education, job training and counseling space.

The Reuben Engagement Center, currently located on the second floor of the former Arrestee Processing Center on East Market Street, would be moved to the new campus to provide shelter and initial treatment and referral for persons experiencing psychological or homeless issues.

Col. Louis Dezelan of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office told the Council that while the jail’s general population had dipped this week to open 146 empty beds, officials were considering a plan to convert the former APC to a 100-bed medium security facility to handle an expected summer inmate overflow.

Marion County’s jail system has a capacity of 2,507 offenders.

119 inmates, five percent of the population, were being held on murder charges.

308 offenders were state inmates serving their low level sentences in the county jail.

Tuesday it was announced that a General Assembly summer study committee will consider the financial impact House Bill 1006 offenders have on overcrowding in county jails and sheriffs’ budgets.

Dezelan also told the CJPC that Sheriff John Layton is in the process of buying a pair of $200,000 body scanners to detect drugs being smuggled into the jail.

A third scanner is being considered for the Duvall Residential Center which houses offenders on work release and where sheriff’s deputies have led recent shakedown searches following a number of suspected drug overdoses.

Dezelan said the jail was also investing in an iris scanner to better identify recidivist offenders.

The jail has been plagued in the past with the inadvertent releases of inmates who were misidentified.

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