Hogsett, officials break ground on new criminal justice center

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and a group of city leaders from both political parties conducted a ceremonial groundbreaking on the proposed criminal justice center in the Twin Aire neighborhood Thursday morning.

The criminal justice center, which will contain a jail, courthouse, sheriff’s office, and assessment and intervention center focusing on diverting people from jail and providing them with mental health services, is slated to be built on the site of the former Citizens Energy coke plant and finished in 2021.

Hogsett said the groundbreaking is an example of his administration’s promise that we “leverage the success of downtown back into our neighborhoods.”

He also said he hopes the center “saves more lives than it detains.”

The Indianapolis City-County Council has given its theoretical OK to the project, though most of the $571 million in spending for the center has not yet been approved. 

Hogsett said he is confident the project will continue to have bipartisan support if the administration continues to be transparent with Republicans about the plans.

The mayor told reporters after the groundbreaking that the council so far has been “extraordinarily supportive.”

Asked about former Mayor Greg Ballard’s inability to get a new criminal justice center approved during his tenure, Hogsett said Ballard “faced deep partisan division” that isn’t there today.

The council so far has approved the acquisition of 140 acres of land from Citizens, and the initial $55 million in construction funding for the first phase of construction was passed unanimously by the council in January.

Corporation counsel Andy Mallon told IBJ that he anticipates the next steps in the funding process to come before the council for votes in November.

Republicans who attended and participated in the groundbreaking event, including City-County Council member Jeff Miller, said the funding was “not fully approved,” but he anticipated continued support.

Republican council member Marilyn Pfisterer said she is overall supportive of the project, though she initially preferred to see it on the west side. But she said “for the good of the county,” she wanted to see the project move forward. 

Continued support, however, Pfisterer said, will “depend on the details.”

The $55 million in construction funding approved in January will pay for several items: $30 million to move soil that’s not amenable to build on and to create a building pad on which to build the campus; $9 million in construction management services; and $15 million for the teams that are selected to build the jail and courthouse so they can to perform initial work on the project before the rest of the financing package goes through.

The jail—which would replace the the Arrestee Processing Center, Jail I, Jail II and Hope Hall, which is inside the City-County Building—would have 2,700 general population beds and 300 specialty, mental-health focused beds.

It would also include 40,000 to 50,000 square feet for inmate education, job training, counseling and other programs, according to the city.

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