MICHIGAN CITY — One of Michigan City’s largest employers will close its doors, and the mayor couldn’t be more pleased.
More than 400 people work at the Indiana State Prison, which is slated to close under plans made public Friday by the Indiana Department of Correction.
The prison was built in 1860 — the year before Abraham Lincoln became president.
“I’m for it,” said Michigan City Mayor Duane Parry.
“We’re going through a boom cycle in Michigan City — an economic boom. How long it’s going to last, I don’t know, but we have to plan for the future. We’re landlocked to the west, we’ve got (the) Porter County line right there on Highway 12. We’re not landlocked to the east, but we have some industry out there. So, some of these areas like the prison need to be revitalized,” he said.
The Indiana State Prison closure is a last-minute addition to a DOC facilities plan that’s been around for years. The decision was apparently made privately a few weeks ago by the Indiana Department of Correction.
It was publicly discussed Friday at a meeting of the Indiana State Budget Committee.
The basic plan still calls for building a new 4,200 bed prison on the Westville Correctional Facility campus at a cost of $2.1 billion. When the new building is completed in about four years, the old Westville facility will be closed. On Friday, the second closure was added to the mix.
Westville is located about 20 miles south of Michigan City.
Shutting down the Indiana State Prison would save an estimated $45 million a year in operating costs alone. That’s enough to pay for the entire project over 20 years.
“It’s outdated like Westville is, and it doesn’t come without emergency repairs on an annual basis of about $1 to $2 million a year,” DOC Commissioner Christina Reagle told committee members. “We have over $380 million in planned capital at that site.”
Mayor Parry says he has met with DOC officials in the past to advocate for a prison shut down. He was told it wouldn’t happen for another 30 or so years.
He looks forward to redeveloping the 100-acre prison site and to shedding Michigan City’s stigma of being a prison town.
“My own son told me, I said, I don’t understand why people say it’s such a stigma because it’s about the fourth largest employer in Michigan City,” Parry explained. “And well, what happens is when a fella goes, goes into prison, his family many times will follow, and they never leave Michigan City. And that brings in a group of people. They’ve experienced hardship, and you experience enough hardship, and you become a little harder.”
Reagle suggests none of the prison’s employees will be forced out of a job, as they can transfer to the Westville campus — which is less than 15 miles away.