Indiana to close prison after minimum-security inmate count falls

The state Department of Correction will close its minimum-security Henryville Correctional Facility in southern Indiana by July 1 in a cost-saving move, the agency announced Wednesday.

The number of minimum-security inmates has fallen under new sentencing guidelines passed by the General Assembly in 2014 and 2015 that called for people convicted of Level 6 (formerly Class D) felonies to be restricted from state prisons beginning Jan. 1, 2016, the department said.

The overall prison population has fallen by more than 1,100 inmates—from 27,246 last July 1 to 26,142 as of April 30, the department said. All of the reductions have occurred at prisons housing minimum-security offenders.

The 140 inmates at the Henryville prison about 20 miles north of Louisville will be moved to prisons in Branchville or Edinburgh, and 36 staff members will be offered vacant positions at prisons in Edinburgh, Branchville and Madison, the department said in a news release.

"In order to realize significant cost savings, facilities like Henryville Correctional Facility with fixed costs including physical plant operation, maintenance, and other related overhead need to be closed," department Commissioner Bruce Lemmon said.

The department will not know how much money the Henryville closing will save until later this year, spokesman Ike Randolph said.

It began a review of its facilities earlier this year to determine if resources could be consolidated and determined the dormitory-style Henryville prison could be most easily absorbed into nearby prisons. Indiana's only other minimum-security prisons are Edinburgh and, in northern Indiana, Chain O'Lakes.

When Level 6 offenders are incarcerated at a county jail instead of a state prison, the DOC must pay the county $35 per day per inmate, the department said.

State Rep. Terry Goodin, D-Austin, whose district includes Henryville, said he was disappointed at the announcement of the closing because people who work there will be forced to move elsewhere to keep their jobs. He also said Henryville and nearby communities benefited from prison work crews performing jobs like mowing weeds in vacant lots, picking up trash, and clearing out ditches.

"To get help, they often relied upon work crews from Henryville to do these things for them. Now that these crews no longer will be around, it will be more difficult to take care of these tasks. In most cases, they will have to be forgotten about or contracted out to private concerns at prices that will end up costing local taxpayers even more," Goodin said in a written statement.

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