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Council votes to prohibit new jail from being privatized

April 9, 2018

The Indianapolis City-County Council on Monday night approved an ordinance that restricts the city’s new jail and criminal justice center from being run by a private operator once it eventually opens.

The plan from Mayor Joe Hogsett’s administration already calls for the Marion County sheriff’s department to run the proposed $571 million facility and to dissolve the contract with the company running the city’s current County Jail II.

But council Vice President Zach Adamson said he wants to keep it that way in the future under a different mayor—or at least make sure that any plan to privatize the jail goes through a public process.

“Future councilors can always repeal this,” said Adamsom. It's "important that a "public process should also take place should we want to privatize in the future."

The proposal was approved 18-4, with the no votes coming from Republican council members.

Council member Marilyn Pfisterer said she voted against it because the council "might be tying the hands of future council members.”

“Why not leave the future to the future?” Pfisterer said.

Adamson previously said he wants to “just codify in law that this will not be, nor in the future be, a for-profit, privately run jail facility.”

“That doesn’t mean that could not change,” Adamson previously told IBJ. “That just means a future administration that decides to change that concept or the way they’re managing, they have to go through a public process to undo it.”

The current County Jail II is privately run, but the Hogsett administration plans to dissolve the contract with the company when the new criminal justice center opens. Corrections Corp. of America, which recently rebranded itself as CoreCivic, has managed that facility since 1997, according to its website.

The criminal justice center will replace not just Jail II, but also Jail I, the Arrestee Processing Center, and Hope Hall. Besides Jail II, the rest of those facilities are run by the Marion County Sheriff’s Department. The new center is expected to have 2,700 general population beds, 300 specialty, mental-health focused beds, and education and job-training facilities.

The council on Monday also acted a second time to approve spending $55 million to pay for initial construction costs on the $571 million future justice center. The council voted again on the proposal it initially approved in January because of an administrative error—the notice of the proposal was advertised in one newspaper instead of two.

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