The Indianapolis Bar Association (“IndyBar) voted yesterday to give encouraging yet conditional support to the Mayor’s recent proposal to construct a new criminal justice center complex. The 29 member IndyBar Board of Directors applauded the efforts of the City to prioritize the creation of safe and adequate justice facilities. The IndyBar has been working for more than a decade to focus attention on the need to overhaul the existing judicial resources, noting safety concerns and other inadequacies. For years, the Association has spearheaded efforts to make a new justice center a reality, touting the long term benefits that would be realized by not only the people involved in the legal system but also the community as a whole.
The IndyBar’s Justice Center Task Force, chaired by John Kautzman and directed under the leadership of IndyBar President Jeff Abrams, was first established in 2002. The IndyBar also established a website specifically devoted to the topic at www.indyjusticecenter.org. Although the IndyBar’s governing body fully endorsed the concept of a new justice center, the Board qualified its support noting the fact that several plan details had yet to be finalized. The IndyBar favors a centrally located downtown site. The Mayor’s announced preferred location of the former GM Stamping Plant is a good option if other downtown sites are unworkable.This entire plan is designed for one purpose and one purpose only: to free up valuable real estate in the downtown core that can be given away to the politicians' political cronies for redevelopment for their own profit-making purposes at the same time a new source of political capital and power is vested in the hands of a new P3. The bar association expresses its desire to see the courts and jails to remain in the downtown core, but it's okay with moving it across the White River to the site of the former GM Stamping Plant, even if it means a foreign, private company will own and control the facilities.
The short-term gain of finding a private vendor to finance immediate construction of a new criminal justice center judged by any objective analysis would be outweighed by the drastically higher long-term costs that Marion County will incur in extraordinary lease and operating expenses to be paid out for the next several decades to the private vendor, which will own and control the newly-constructed criminal justice center lock, stock and barrel. We just witnessed Mayor Greg Ballard's disastrous P3 plan for the regional operations center that will cost taxpayers at least $20 million over the next 25 years under a similar credit tenant agreement for a building that isn't even suited for the intended use. We just learned this week from the former emergency services director that there was never a plan to lease a facility for emergency services longer than a 10-year period because the powers that be had already made it known they intended to build a new criminal justice center that would house the emergency response facilities as well. Yet we're stuck with a one-sided agreement written for the sole benefit of a politically-connected campaign contributor for the next 25 years.
Under no circumstances should we ever be privatizing critical government operations regarding our criminal justice system. The potential for mischief in one of the most critical roles that our government has is not worth the risks, let alone the costs. Apparently all of that is lost on the Indianapolis Bar Association, which once again proves just how little it cares about the views of its rank-and-file members. As long as we get a new criminal justice center built and force less desirable members of society to go somewhere else less convenient to deal with our justice system where they will be out of sight and out of mind is all that really matters to these folks at the end of the day. It's more important to fulfill their vision of downtown as being nothing more than a playground for the joy and pleasure of the wealthy and out-of-town visitors, while keeping the common people at bay.