WXIN-TV FOX 59


Changes proposed for Marion County court system

September 20, 2004
Reported by Jessica D'Onofrio

Some Marion County officials are calling the courts an embarrassment.

A new plan that came out Monday recommends dozens of changes to fix the flawed system.

That includes building a new justice center at a cost topping $200 million.

It's common in Marion County to release violent felons back onto the streets.

Public officials are saying crammed courtrooms with back logged cases are the root.

"That happens everyday here in Marion County. It's something that every public official has their hands tied," Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi said.

Those problems are addressed in this new strategic 10-year plan.

The Criminal Justice Planning Council listened to the proposal that costs 220-thousand dollars and took about a year to put together.

Twenty-four local and state agencies were involved.

Some recommendations include hiring more people to bring case loads down to national and state standards, raising salaries and building a new courthouse with a $250 million price tag.

"We've turned closets into jury rooms and we basically simply have run out of space," Superior Court Judge Mark Stoner said.

The initiative would go in several phases. The ones with no-cost going first.

How to pay for the pricier suggestions is unclear.

"We're not asking you to particularly come up with a method of funding for this. What we would like for you to do is study the plan carefully and seriously consider all of the proposals set forth in it," Strategic plan member Doris Anne Sadler said.

The proposal comes when financial times are tight..all local agencies are suffering from deep budget cuts..

Supportive members say public safety should come before funding a new Colts stadium.

"Talk without action is like a rowboat without oars- it goes nowhere. Let's put some oars on the rowboat and move forward," said Planning Council Chairman [Judge] Cale Bradford.

The planning council will digest this information and consider it over the next 30 days.

After that they may form a sub-committee that would begin to implement the plan.