Indiana prison inmates will no longer be a part of the license plate production process starting May 1.
The Bureau of Motor Vehicles plans to outsource the production and distribution of the state's license plates and vehicle registrations for the next several years. Inmates at the state prison in Michigan City had made the plates as a subcontractor for decades.
The BMV has entered into a $72 million contract with Intellectual Technology Inc. The company will receive yearly payments from the BMV until the end of 2019.
The company is based in California but has a logistics and operations office in Fort Wayne. It has handled vehicle registration services since 2009 and holds contracts with 13 other states The new contract will add plate production to the deal and is expected to save the BMV nearly $14.4 million over five years.
BMV officials say the decision will help bring new jobs to Fort Wayne and streamline BMV services.
The Indiana Department of Motor Vehicles this month ended its contract with a company that had worked with Prison Enterprises Network, which employed state prison inmates. PEN is a division of the Indiana Department of Corrections.
“We expect to find other prison industry jobs for the offenders affected,” said Doug Garrison, IDOC’s chief communications officer. “The IDOC welcomed the long-term association and partnership with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to make license plates, and wish the BMV well in their new venture.”
Inmates making the license plates were maximum-security offenders, with some serving life sentences.
On Monday, some House Democrats expressed concerned about the legitimacy of the millions of dollars in saving. Rep. Dan Forestal, D-Indianapolis, addressed his concerns during the House session on Monday.
Forestal attempted to amend a bill involving the life cycle of license plates. He proposed a look-back provision to analyze the actual savings of changing the license plate production compared to the company’s estimated savings.
“I am concerned that they will never look back on something they have passed on that was handled by the state to a private company,” he said. “The company (projected) savings and no one will look back to see if the savings came. I’m very concerned about it and Hoosiers are concerned. Projected and actual savings are too separate things."
The proposed amendments – which were struck down in roll call votes – would have required the BMV to include the total amount of money saved by no longer utilizing prison labor in its annual report to the Roads Committee.
“I was surprised (the amendments failed.) The amendments were common sense,” Forestal said. “Members of the majority party came to the podium and said it was a good idea, but voted against it. I don’t know what they are trying to protect.”
Intellectual Technology said it will deploy up to 33 self-service terminals around the state. Some will be available 24 hours a day, while others will operate only during branch hours, Gillespie said. There are currently 132 license branches in the state.
House Democrats questioned the deal, saying it could create safety issues at the prison.
"The license plate program existed to manage the prison population. It's a matter of safety," Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said. "Offenders have to stay busy and the busier the stay, the safer the environment for the corrections officers."