A major component and selling point of the proposed Marion County criminal justice center project the Ballard administration is now seeking council approval is a modern new jail with at least 1,000 excess bed space jail that Sheriff John Layton claims will save taxpayers millions of dollars over the current cost of operating Marion County Jail and the privately-run Jail II. A recent story in the Denver Post regarding Denver's new $378 million justice center, which opened in 2010, should give City-County Council member pause before believing Sheriff Layton's wild claims of cost savings.
Ten years ago, Denver city officials persuaded voters to approve funding for a $378 million justice center that included a modern downtown jail.
The sales pitch promised relief for a crowded jail on Smith Road and pledged to manage the expanded number of inmate beds without increasing the Denver Sheriff Department staff.
But nearly four years after the Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center opened its doors on Colfax Avenue, those promises have fallen through.
The jail already is at maximum capacity, especially in the women's unit, where inmates often are forced to sleep on the floor.
The jail never has had enough employees, causing deputies to work thousands of hours of overtime a month and leading supervisors to spend most of their time juggling schedules. As of Nov. 30, the department has spent $6.9 million to pay for 146,268 hours of overtime, the highest amount since the jail opened.
When Denver paid out nearly $10 million this year to settle excessive-force lawsuits, the inmates in those cases had been housed at the Downtown Detention Center.
Inmates at the downtown jail file three times the number of grievances, compared with inmates at the county jail on Smith Road, even though the downtown jail is not even twice as big. And the jail has been at the heart of multiple problems identified by The Denver Post, including Taser usage that violates federal guidelines and a rash of erroneous releases.
All of this leaves people involved — including elected officials, public safety experts and attorneys — asking: What went wrong? And what can be done to fix it? . . .Yeah, not quite the story the downtown mafia wants you to read about before taking them at their word this 35-year, $1.75 billion investment in a criminal justice center is just what the sheriff ordered. When the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee rolled out this lofty proposal a little more than a year ago, Sheriff John Layton said "there are no problems, only solutions." After bragging about achieving accreditation for the county's jail, placing it in the top 1% of the country's jails, Sheriff Layton went on to complain about how woefully inadequate it was in explaining why we need to invest so much money building a newer and bigger jail to spend less, not more money. As for the Indianapolis Star, which endorsed the criminal justice project site unseen, we can assume the newspaper is hiding the woes of Denver's criminal justice center project from us since The Post is a Gannett-owned newspaper like The Star.
UPDATE: It looks like at least one council member is taking notice:
Why is Republican Caucus rushing us for a vote on Justice Center? Is there something in the details they want to keep secret? $750k per bid
— Frank Mascari (@MascariF) February 2, 2015
"Is Mayor Ballard setting us up for a Denver Jail Fail? http://t.co/PaDEgd7DQd?
— Frank Mascari (@MascariF) February 2, 2015
Jail accreditation by the ACA and other organizations is such a joke. Don't get me started on that.
The article you cite suggests the City needs to do its homework. Then persuade the voters to pass this turd by referendum. I'd like to hear legitimate answers to the numerous tough questions folks are asking.
Why does Layton think the buildings are inadequate? Both jail buildings have many unoccupied floors. A significant revenue source helping justify the maximum annual payment is the assumption that many beds in the new building will be leased to outside entities like the feds, meaning we will be housing their inmates in exchange for cash. Sounds like a good deal. But if we've got room to easily add jail cells and inmates now, wouldn't we already be taking advantage of this opportunity? Does the City even have a commitment from the feds or others to do this? I think we know the answer folks, or we would have seen the supporting evidence by now.
The proposed criminal justice center is a lie. That proven liars like Greg Ballard tell us a new expensive building far from the current direct and ancillary "justice" system services will end up costing us less reminds me of the way the Liar in Chief outright lied about Obamacare over and over again.
Democrat and Republican professional politicians know the public memory is exceedingly short and therefore it matters not how much one lies to support a center being passed against statutes and most likely with bribery and payola of one sort or another.
This thing will go through. Too many Democrats and Republicans have their fingers in it for the money... as they did with the now war-torn-looking ROC.
But the people will forget and that will allow crooks like the current crop of Democrats and Republicans to begin another crony plan for themselves and their political pals.
Thanks for all your work keeping us informed on this criminal justice center project. I'm not surprised the Indianapolis Star is doing no investigative reporting on it, but I'm particularly disappointed in the IBJ, which you used to be able to count on to look into important matters the Star wouldn't touch.
The Star is definitely not reporting on this story, but they are running a bunch of stories whining about the Patriots and casting the great win as a mistake by the Seahawks, rather than a win by the pats.
The Star is also running a story hoping the Pats will face some sort of punishment over the balls.
It's a bitter, loser paper that does everything it can to do image control for a mid-major city with a very frail ego.
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