Judges make it official: Indy courts moving to justice center

Judges of the Marion Circuit and Superior Courts formally announced Thursday that civil and criminal courts will move from the Indianapolis City-County Building to a proposed Criminal Justice Complex on the city’s near-southeast side.

The courts and the Criminal Justice Reform Task Force released a joint statement announcing the formal decision ahead of the May 1 deadline. The move was approved by Marion Circuit Court and the General Term of Marion Superior Court.

“Over the past four months, in partnership with the Indianapolis Criminal Justice Reform Task Force, the Marion County Circuit and Superior Courts have engaged in the hard work of putting Marion County on the cutting-edge of modern court systems,” the statement said. “By looking at models and best practices from all over the country, Marion County’s Circuit and Superior Courts are committed to building a court system that is effective, efficient, and continues to promote justice in line with the fundamental tenets of criminal justice reform. While the task before the courts is a challenging one, the courts are committed and will not settle for a system that does not enhance the community with great resources and access to the justice system.”

Mayor Joe Hogsett in January announced a facility now dubbed the Community Justice Campus would be built in the Twin Aire neighborhood on the site of the former Citizens Gas and Coke Utility Plant. In Thursday’s statement, Hogsett thanked the courts “for their forward-thinking commitment to building an innovative, efficient, and just criminal justice system.”

Hogsett has pushed for what he calls bold criminal justice reform that puts mental health assessment, substance abuse, treatment, and other services at the core. Along with a jail with 2,600-3,000 beds, the facility will include an upfront assessment center. The facility is expected to cost $575 million, but depending on the structure of lease payments, the city could pay several times more.

Former Mayor Greg Ballard’s plan for a public-private justice center on the former General Motors Stamping Plant that failed to gain City-County Council approval came with a long-term price tag of about $1.75 billion in lease payments over decades. Under Hogsett’s plan, the city will use a design-build delivery model for most of the project and has selected the HOK design and engineering firm that worked on Ballard’s proposed justice center plan to serve as a consultant on the development.
City-County Council President Maggie Lewis in a statement Thursday applauded the courts’ decision to locate at the complex and the collaboration that’s marked the process. “This marks an important milestone in our effort to reform the Marion County criminal justice system,” she said. “In the weeks and months ahead, I look forward to continue working alongside my colleagues.”  

Three key dates remain prior to City-County Council approval, according to the Task Force report. The city will release a request for bid proposals on July 1; responses will be due back to the city Nov. 1; and the winning bid will be selected and proposed to the council by Jan. 1, 2018.

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