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Indianapolis Developing New Community Justice Campus

by: Jack Quigley
Indianapolis City officials are working alongside HOK Architecture, HCO, Inc., Synthesis, Schmidt Associates, DLZ, FA Wilhelm, AECOM, and other local design-build team members to construct a three-part, $572 million criminal justice center that includes an adult detention center, an Assessment and Intervention Center (AIC), and a 12-story courthouse building.

Built on the grounds of a former industrial plant in the Twin Aire neighborhood, the facility includes an adult detention center that features a 3,000-bed prison and a sheriff’s office, as well as a courthouse facility that has six courtrooms per floor from the ground floor to the ninth and staff offices occupying the 10th and 11th floors.

The LEED-certified facility will combine previously separated aspects of the criminal justice system into one campus. Designers from HOK Architecture said the facility was designed with accessibility, sustainability, and operational efficiency in mind.

Combining Environments
Judicial and law enforcement facilities are often built as separate entities that do not interact with each other. Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and his administration noticed years ago that the City’s current court system is fraught with inefficiencies, so they worked with the Indianapolis-Marion County Building Authority, sheriff’s office, courts staff, and design-build teams to create a facility that made the courts and jails more accessible to staff and visitors while accounting for the mental health of those taken into the system.

Indianapolis court rooms are currently housed in a downtown City County building that hosts a variety of government programs. The existing facility is used for parking permits, zoning issues, the parks department, the Mayor’s office, the Clerks, and more, making day-to-day operations challenging for everyone involved. With a new 12-story building focused solely on the courts, judges, staff, inmates, and visitors will go through the system much faster.

Jeff Goodale from HOK Architecture said the courts tower was designed prominently to convey the importance of the judicial system. He said his team worked diligently to create a courthouse facility that combines each subset of the court system into a central hub. Civil, criminal, probate, and juvenile courts are all included in the new building, so Goodale said HOK spoke with staff from each judicial subset to determine how the space could work best for them while maintaining the design theme.

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“A lot of effort went into bringing some commonality across all those different platforms, so we weren’t designing five different courthouses within one courthouse,” Goodale said. “We have one, cohesive courthouse.”

He said HOK worked closely with the Mayor’s Office and other design-build firms to bring consistency to the whole project and ensure that each part of the campus flows consistently with one another. They wanted the design to represent the goal of the facility itself, so glass was implemented heavily into each building to give a feeling of openness.

“The glass in the facility represents modern transparency in the justice system,” Goodale said.

He said they incorporated glass to give occupants of each building the sense that they are rooted within the community, not separated from it. Chad Morris, Project Manager for HOK Architecture, said all the glass will be northwest facing, causing the light to be diffused and giving those inside a panoramic view of downtown Indianapolis.

“It doesn’t have to be anything more than having good natural light, fresh air coming into the space, usable features in the facility, program space adjacent to the housing area, and a good medical treatment facility for people who are really in need of it when they come here,” Morris said. “Not only does it improve the morale of inmates there, but it actually facilitates the operations of the sheriff’s office so they are able to more efficiently manage the jail.”

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As the current pandemic has changed the way many industries conduct business, the new courthouse will also be equipped to handle the challenges of working remotely. Courthouses will feature video technology that allows judges to conduct hearings or other court business virtually, minimizing the need to gather in large groups.

The Assessment and Intervention Center
One unique aspect of the Criminal Justice Campus will be the 37,000-square-foot assessment and intervention center (AIC). Here, low-level, non-violent offenders who struggle with addiction or mental illness will get the opportunity to receive treatment rather than spending time in jail. The AIC will have 120 beds for people who are diverted away from jail upon arrest.

“We want to treat people right when they have to be here,” Goodale said.

Richard Fetz, Owner’s Representative for the Indianapolis Marion County Building Authority said facilities like the AIC are proven to help people better their lives.

“The best way to help people in jail is keeping them out of it to begin with.”

Morris said his firm tried incorporating various design elements into the facility that might assist with intervention treatments.

Revitalizing a Neighborhood
The Twin Aire neighborhood will see substantial growth with the introduction of a new government facility into the area.
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“I think the genius of this facility is creating a campus in an area of town that really wanted improvement,” Fetz said.

Goodale said the campus will bring a high-level government presence into the area that it has never seen before, which will inevitably create more opportunities for local residents and businesses.

“This is going to bring thousands of people daily into the area to work, do business, and visit,” Goodale said. “With that will come opportunities for more restaurants, services, coffee shops, daycares, and other elements that will be in place to support that influx.”

The move will also free up space in the City-County building that can be used for a variety of civic purposes.

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