First look at the site plan for new Indianapolis courthouse, jail

A plan for the Indianapolis-Marion County Community Justice Campus is shown. (Image Provided)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The bidding is open for the new “Indianapolis-Marion County Community Justice Campus,” expected to take up 40-plus acres in the Twin Aire neighborhood.

Following the city’s purchase of 140 acres from Citizens Energy for the old coke plant at 2915 Prospect Ave. for $4.1 million last month, Mayor Joe Hogsett’s task force is ready for Phase 1 of the bidding process to begin.

“We’re very busy but very excited as we see our design ideas come forward,” said Andy Mallon, corporation counsel and project lead for the justice campus task force.

Mallon explained that, since their published timeline in December 2016 that planned for bidding to open July 1 and bid selection for Jan. 1, 2018, the team has made several changes.

First, they’ve divided the justice campus projects into two main components for construction: the jailhouse and the courthouse. The city will ultimately hire two teams to work separately on those two projects.

Second, they’ve changed their construction delivery method, nixing a public-private partnership and going with a design-build-delivery method. Simply put, the bidding process changed.

“When we made that choice, that rearranged the deadlines,” Mallon said. “It really didn’t change the overall opening date, which is 2021.”

Bidding is open and the city expects to isolate a small group of qualified teams by Jan. 31.

Mallon said this bidding method means they’re working closer with elected officials.

“We go in stages where we get to brief the council all along the way and we ask for funding,” he said. “Which we feel has been very important in establishing credibility with the council and keeping up to date.”

His team is already asking for $55 million dollars in funding before bids come in, in City-County Council Proposal 411.

“We are far enough along in the design that we think we can begin construction of the ground of the site itself to prepare for those teams,” Mallon said. “Essentially construct a building pad for the jail and for the courthouse.”

The site plan their team has designed, and the one the bidders will be required to work with, isolated four buildings: a jailhouse that consolidates Jails I and II, the Arrestee Processing Center and Hope Hall inside the CCB; a courthouse that consolidates Marion County civil, criminal, juvenile and probate courts; office space; and a “Mental Health Assessment and Intervention Facility.”

“It’s a facility where divert people form the criminal justice stem hopefully entirely,” Mallon said. “People with substance abuse problems or mental health problems, those problems can be addressed by health care community, which is more designed to address those proles as opposed to the criminal justice system, which isn’t designed to address those problems.”

Some residents said they’re not satisfied with the plan. The group No New Jail Coalition meets at the John H. Boner Community Center, 2236 E. 10th St., from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays. They are proponents of more holistic, comprehensive criminal justice reform. Erin Marshall with Decarcerate Marion County said her organization believes the city isn’t planning far enough into the future and simply building a new facility will not resolve current criminal justice issues. Her organization believes the millions of dollars that are headed into the new jail would be better allocated addressing communities struggling with poverty, violence and educational system corruption. A representative of No New Jail Coalition was unable to speak with 24 Hour News 8, but Marshall released this statement on behalf of the coalition.

“The city is charging ahead without having fully considered their options and the consequences of their actions. This is a fiscally irresponsible proposal with few concrete details, and will only serve to exacerbate the problems and maintain the status quo the city is purportedly so concerned with changing. No New Jail Coalition is concerned about the forethought of a body of people who can name the problem of mass incarceration and subsequently claim the solution is to expand our local justice institutions.”

While the current jails may be outdated and in disrepair, building a new and larger facility does not ensure that same problem will be prevented in the future. While the current facilities are overcrowded, it is largely due to the number of people being held pre-trial simply because they are unable to post bail. Furthermore, with bail reform on the horizon, building a justice campus to solve the problem of overcrowding is short-sighted. As the community has learned from a recent audit of the jail, people are waiting up to 46 hours after posting bail to be released. These kinds of inefficiencies will not be solved by building a new facility, and correcting these problems negates the need for a new jail. Lastly, while the needs of people with mental illness and addiction have been recognized, the proposal suggests the means of keeping these members of our community out of jail is to arrest them. Additionally, there is neither adequate space built into this proposed facility for the number of people with mental illness and drug use issues, nor a complete plan for how to address their needs.

Why is the city so eager to spend money on building a new jail and justice campus when there are dozens of holes in the proposal and there are communities facing poverty, police violence, and school closings? No New Jail Coalition is urging community members to contact their city-county councilors and tell them they do not want to the city to build a new jail and justice campus in Marion County. People can sign the petition against the justice campus proposal at nonewjail.org.”

A plan for the Indianapolis-Marion County Community Justice Campus is shown. (Image Provided)