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Marion County announces plan to build new criminal justice complex

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Under a plan announced by city and court officials Wednesday, Marion County’s courts, jails and other offices would be located in one complex instead of spread out around downtown Indianapolis and the county.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, Marion Superior Judge David Certo and Marion County Sheriff John Layton announced the plans, which have been decades in the making. Ballard said the modern facility will improve public safety and generate enough efficiencies to pay for the new complex without a tax increase.

Right now, the criminal justice support facilities are spread throughout Indianapolis, with some facilities miles apart. The process after a person is arrested in Marion county requires multiple transfers to different buildings, which officials says is time consuming and expensive. The new design would streamline that process and eliminate hazards such as radio dead zones and blind spots, making the facilities safer. Staff, visitors and litigants currently share space with violent offenders.

“Our mission in the Marion Superior Court compels us to provide an appropriate, safe and accessible setting for litigants and the public,” Certo said. “The outdated layout of our current facilities prevents us from meeting these goals with our courtrooms, offices, and public spaces. I enthusiastically support this long overdue effort to create a new and safer court facility.”

The complex would house separate adult and juvenile jails along with inmate processing, detention and criminal court facilities. The offices of the prosecutor, public defender, probation and community corrections would also be in the complex. The clerk, coroner, crime lab and other state and federal agencies could follow.

The plan calls for the new judicial center to include space for 25 to 30 courtrooms, which would provide relief for the nearly 40 Circuit and Superior courts now housed in the City-County Building.

No location has been determined yet and officials will begin evaluating proposals in February 2014 with final section by September. The goal is for construction to begin in 2015 with a projected opening date of 2018.

By combining the facilities and offices in one area, the buildings will use shared resources such as food preparation and maintenance services. Transportation costs will also be reduced as moving inmates through the current system adds tens of thousands of dollars in additional security costs.

The county expects these cost savings as well as the reallocation of budget dollars from current contracts and leases that are set to expire, and private retail rental on the new property, to pay for the project.

The city also sees development potential for the land where Jail 1, Jail 2 and the Community Corrections facilities sit in downtown Indianapolis. That land was recently valued at $17.6 million.  
 

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