Indiana News

New Budget Forces State Prison System to Make Changes


Indiana's prison system will close two work-release centers and shuffle other institutions to cope with a spending freeze imposed in the new budget.

The state will create a new program for inmates serving sentences of less than a year: They'll be housed at what's now the Plainfield reentry center for prisoners almost finished with their sentences.

The reentry center will be combined with two Indianapolis work-release centers into a new reentry facility at what's now the Indiana Women's Prison. Female offenders will move to the Indiana Girls School on Indy's south side. The juvenile inmates there will move to Madison, where there's already a prison for women.

Prison commissioner Ed Buss says the shell game will open up 2,000 new beds and save the state $8 million, plus the expense of building and operating a new prison.

The state estimates a new prison would cost $140 million to build and $38 million a year to run. Governor Daniels had included one in his original budget proposal in December, but scrapped it as the economic slump prompted even harsher budget cuts.

The state plans to sell one of the work-release buildings.

Buss says the shuffling does not create any new capacity to house maximum-security inmates. The state has 5,200 maximum security beds, with just 26 available.

Buss says the state will compensate by creating maximum-security units within lower-security institutions, a solution he calls less than ideal. He notes two escapes in the last year involved maximum-security prisoners who had been moved to new prisons.

But Buss says it's still preferable to furloughing prisoners or releasing them early, as some states have.

Buss says the Short-Term Offender Program (STOP) probably would have been created even without the budget crunch. He says educational and substance-abuse treatment programs aimed at keeping inmates from reoffending don't help inmates who won't be in the system long enough to take advantage of them. STOP will create condensed versions of those programs.

The transition should be complete by the end of the year.

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