Mayor announces plans for new Criminal Justice Compound


In an effort to save time and money, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard wants to bring criminal justice in Marion County under one roof.

Wednesday morning, the mayor, Sheriff John Layton and other city leaders announced that the city would move forward with plans for a new criminal justice complex. The facility would house all criminal courts, jail facilities, the prosecutor's office, the public defender's office and the juvenile detention center in one central location.

Currently in Marion County, there are five separate jail facilities. They include the Marion County Jail, Jail Two - a privately-operated facility the county pays $18 million a year to house 1,100 inmates, the Arrestee Processing Center - a small facility in the basement of the City-County Building and the juvenile detention center.

If you get arrested in Marion County, you'll be taken to the Arrestee Processing Center, then driven to the jail, then to the City-County Building for court. Depending on the charge, you could end up back at the Marion County Jail or the privately-run Jail Two, which is a half-mile away. For the accused, their families, and lawyers it's a bureaucratic maze.

"You have to go from building to building to building to building to building to basically get one issue accomplished," said Jeff Mendes, a criminal defense attorney.

"The need to improve delivery of justice in Marion County has been studied 11 times in the past 35 years," the mayor said during a morning news conference. "Our teams have studied this from all angles...Now is the time for action."

The mayor said the new facility, estimated to cost $300-400 million, would likely be built by a private developer with the city entering a long-term contract to lease the space.

He said the cost to lease would be more than offset by the savings achieved through efficiencies. For one, the city would no longer spend millions of dollars transporting prisoners from the Arrestee Processing Center to the jail, to the courtroom and back to the jail.

The mayor said the new facility would also eliminate overcrowding issues in the jails and courtrooms, eliminate the need for ongoing and costly repairs at the various facilities and improve security.

"It's a waste of money and resources to operate multiple facilities when we can do the job with just one," the mayor said.

Asked if the jail and inmate transportation savings would add up to millions of dollars, Lt. Col. Louis Dezelan of the Marion County Sheriff's Department said, "I think so". He said the department is firmly behind a plan to consolidate services including building a new jail.

"I think efficiencies could contribute to a lot of the things you're talking about, but we obviously have to get everything finalized before we can actually say it will or will not," said Deputy Mayor Marc Lotter, a spokesman for Mayor Greg Ballard.

Given the size of the center - it would need 35 acres - it would likely be built outside the immediate downtown area. One potential site mentioned is the old GM stamping plant, another is land north of the old airport terminal.

The mayor said that decision would be left to the developer.

The city plans to issue a request for qualifications December 20th and spend nearly a year reviewing the proposals before making a decision. The hope is to break ground in early 2015 with completion in 2018.

The facility would need approval from the City-County Council.

Democrat Monroe Gray said, "I'm all in favor if it remains downtown. The center has to be somewhere that it's available to all people, not just those fortunate to drive."

The plan does call for the city to work with IndyGo to ensure the facility is accessible by bus.