Holcomb says he’s ‘exceptionally confident’ in $1.2B project to combine Indiana State, Westville prisons

The Westville Correctional Facility, located in Westville, Indiana, is a state-operated prison for adult males.(Jeff Mayes/The News-Dispatch via AP)

Aug 11, 2023

Gov. Eric Holcomb is fully behind the major shift in the state’s $1.2 billion prison project that now includes closing the maximum-security Indiana State Prison.

Department of Correction officials had presented the project during this year’s legislative session as a replacement for the Westville Correctional Facility but last week gained State Budget Committee approval for a revised plan that includes consolidating it with the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City.

When asked by State Affairs whether he believed the planned 4,200-bed prison at the current Westville prison site could still be completed within that $1.2 billion budget, Holcomb said Thursday that he agreed the best move was to replace the two aging prisons that are about 15 miles apart.

(Design: Joy Walstrum)

“I’m exceptionally confident and I say that from an informed position. This isn’t something that we just baked overnight,” Holcomb said. “This is something that we’ve been long considering, lots of different options, to make sure that number one that we had safe and secure facilities, plural facilities, both Michigan City and Westville Correctional Facility, and that we weren’t pouring good money after bad to the tune of tens of millions of dollars just to keep up with renovations and rehabilitating the facilities.”

Department of Correction officials faced questions about how the new prison would house both the 2,400 maximum-security inmates that the Michigan City prison can hold along with the 3,400 medium-security inmates that make up most of the Westville prison population.

Department of Correction Commissioner Christina Reagle told the State Budget Committee that not all inmates from those prisons would be moved to the new facility as inmates are often shifted among prisons across the state.

The current Westville prison opened in 1951 as a state mental hospital and was converted to a prison in 1979. It has about 900 employees, according to the agency. 

The Indiana State Prison, sections of which date to the 1800s, has about 500 employees.

Reagle told the State Budget Committee last week that replacing both prisons would result in savings in both operational and maintenance costs while being able to protect the jobs of workers at both prisons.

Holcomb said he believed the new prison project was “long overdue” and that the state has “the resources to do it, with cash.”

“The dollars that we’re going to be able to save, in and of themselves, and then to be able to consolidate, the efficiencies that will come from that, quite frankly, made this a no brainer,” Holcomb said.

Tom Davies is a Statehouse reporter for State Affairs Pro Indiana. Reach him at [email protected] or on Twitter at @TomDaviesIND.

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Header image: The Westville Correctional Facility, located in Westville, Indiana, is a state-operated prison for adult males.(Jeff Mayes/The News-Dispatch via AP)