November 25, 2002 WISH-TV 8

New Indy Courthouse Proposed

November 25, 2002
Indianapolis needs new courtrooms. That's the opinion of a group of attorneys who say overcrowded courts are making the building an unsafe place for ordinary citizens.

A joint task force of attorneys has studied the building. They say that congestion is putting jailhouse prisoners too close to the thousands of other people who visit the building every day. They say there are too many cases, not enough courtrooms and too much tension.

"It's not unusual that in a courtroom setting, people lose their cool. While no doubt the deputies that work the building cut a bit of slack in dealing with a tense situation, there comes a point in time when they have to make an arrest," said John Maley, president of the Indiana Bar Association.

The city-county building was built with enough space for 16 to 20 courts. But that was more than 40 years ago. Now, rooms barely bigger than closets are used for some of the city-county building’s 32 courtrooms. "It's tense place, and you have to design the facilities to account for that tension," said Maley.

On the building's ground floor, handcuffed prisoners are routinely led to courtrooms just yards away from a day-care center. That means contact with the thousands of people coming in and out of the city-county building every day.

Someone who has no connection with the justice system can find themselves side-by-side with someone headed for prison. "To pay taxes, to talk to the auditor of Marion County, he has to come to the building. He has to go through those gates, and sometimes he has to ride the same elevator with the same inmates that are housed in the city-county building," said Ricardo Rivera, president of the Marion County Bar Association.

A recommendation from a joint task force of the Indianapolis and Marion County Bar Associations suggests a new justice facility can be built. But it could cost as much as $100 million.

Right now, the city-county building handles a workload of 40,000 criminal cases every year. Experts have recommended a new courthouse for Indianapolis and Marion County for more than a decade.

Now that Market Square Arena has been demolished, some of them think the vacant lot across Alabama Street is the right place for a new justice center, but the city has to find the money to build it first.

Tony Perkins
News 8 Reporter