April 26, 2005
State moves toward privatizing prison
NEW CASTLE, Ind. -- The Indiana Department of Correction will ask private prison contractors to submit bids for operating the New Castle Correctional Facility.
The agency will review any bids in August, and if it awards a contract, the prison could reach full capacity with more than 2,000 prisoners within 15 to 18 months, or by early 2007, said Commissioner J. David Donahue.
He confirmed that a request for proposals will be ready next month to be delivered to companies that specialize in operating prisons. They will have 30 to 45 days to respond.
His comments to the (New Castle) Courier-Times seem to be the strongest indication so far that the state may privatize the underused New Castle prison. DOC spokeswoman Java Ahmed said late last month an internal review of such a step could take six months to complete.
The $123 million medium-security prison, on the grounds of the former New Castle State Developmental Center about 35 miles east of Indianapolis, was designed to house more than 1,800 inmates and employ about 750 state workers and therapeutic contract employees. Because of a funding shortage, the facility has only about 380 inmates and 265 employees.
Once it reaches capacity, possibly by fall 2006 or early 2007, it could have up to 500 employees, Donahue said.
As for current employees and local concerns about privatization, Donahue said, "I am committed to a fair process with all employees. Wages will be competitive to the local market."
Donahue disagreed that privatization would result in lower wages and a lower quality of employees at the prison.
"Employees deserve a safe environment," he said. "That won't be diminished just because I'm allowing someone else to run the facility."