Ind. county prepares to open new high-tech jail
Among the facility's upgrades is the ability to electronically track inmates via wristbands
By Amelia Pak-Harvey and Lawrence Andrea
The Indianapolis Star
INDIANAPOLIS — The new courts and jail complex just east of downtown Indianapolis is nearly ready for full occupancy as the sheriff's office and Marion County court system gradually fill in to the new building.
Supply chain issues prompted by the coronavirus pandemic have somewhat delayed some departments from moving into the Community Justice Campus built between Southeastern Avenue and Prospect Street.
Yet the sheriff's office administrative team has already moved to the campus, which awaits the transfer of inmates from the downtown City-County Building sometime this month.
Deputies with the judicial enforcement division will remain at the City-County Building until the courts conclude their move to the CJC, which should be complete by the end of February.
Another contingent of deputies with the Homeland Security division will continue to guard the City-County building "for as long as it remains a government building," the office said. The future of that building is not clear.
Officials noted they will transfer the nearly 2,200 inmates held in Marion County's two jails to the new jail by Feb. 1. Deputies stationed at those facilities will continue to staff them until that move is complete.
Inside the 770,000 square feet of jail space, technological improvements stand out. While the current jails rely mostly on paper records, officials noted, the new jail will automatically keep track of the facility's data.
Pronged devices that look similar to Wi-Fi routers on the ceilings of each housing unit, for example, connect with a band on every inmate's wrist that tracks one's location every three seconds. If two inmates who are supposed to be kept separate enter the same room, or if an inmate enters an area he isn't supposed to be, jail staff will be automatically alerted.
And the new facility has a variety of new medical upgrades.
A clinic in the jail's medical section was built to "look and feel like a regular doctor's office," Col. James Martin told reporters. In the dental room, two blue dentist's chairs sat in front of an X-ray machine — something the current jail does not have. Nearby, a number of tables sat untouched in what will be a physical therapy room, another new addition.
The jail's infirmary has 32 hospital beds — about 22 more than the current jail — which officials say will reduce inmate stays at Indianapolis' hospitals.
"I think this is going to set the example for how jails are built and how technology is handled, how inmates are handled," Martin said.
Work for the entire Community Justice Campus, however, is not yet complete.
The city's new Youth and Family Services Center is planned for the north side of Prospect Street on city-owned property. The new coroner's office and forensics lab are planned across the street on the south side.
On the north part of the campus, construction work continues on the professional building that will house the public defender and probation department. Two parking garages for the professional building and court personnel have also yet to be built.
All of those facilities — to be completed throughout 2022 and 2023 —are part of the 140 acres that the city acquired from Citizens Energy Group through a $4.2 million deal in 2017.