It takes a lot of work and money to keep up a small town and even more to maintain a whole county.
A community service program at the New Castle Correctional Facility can help relieve the burden on taxpayers. At the same time, the men working those crews also have the chance to learn skills that can help them after their sentences are over.
New Castle Correctional Facility is a private facility run by The GEO Group.
Offenders in the main facility are separated from the public by locked fences, razor wire and correctional officers.
What many people in Henry County may not realize is that the New Castle Correctional Facility also has a level one, minimum security dorm outside of the main prison.
Minimum security inmates are given the opportunity to work on community service crews in communities all over Henry County.
“This is typical with any level one facility,” said NCCF Public Information Officer Myra Strobel. “The objective is that a good work ethic is maintained while the men are in prison, pick up a trade and are instilled with some amount of trust being allowed to work out in the community.”
Strobel said each crew supervisor receives annual training specifically for work crew supervision. Supervisors are given a “crew kit” each day which identifies each inmate by picture and physical description.
New Castle Correctional Facility also notifies notifies local law enforcement of the location and composition of each crew on a weekly basis, Strobel said.
NCCF has consistent crews going to the Henry County Humane Society, Summit Lake State Park, Memorial Park, the Henry County Arts Park in New Castle, Osborne Park, Lewisville Cemetery, Knightstown Cemetery and the Town of Spiceland.
Lewisville Town Council President Richard Craig said NCCF community service crews have helped out the southern Henry County town several times and saved the town money over the years.
Besides helping clean up town property, the work crews also helped improve town culverts and clean up Applebutter Creek.
“I think it’s a good thing,” Craig said. “I think it helps them, too, to kind of build a sense of community.”
Craig hopes that the inmates who take part in the community service program learn life skills that prevent them from becoming repeat offenders after they get out of prison.
Cost-savings for local communities
In 2017, New Castle Correctional Facility work crews logged 24,349 hours of labor, which is $176,000 at a minimum-wage rate.
That work was completed at no cost to local communities or taxpayers.
“No money is exchanged for community service,” Strobel said.
Strobel said work crews save local municipalities even more money by freeing up city and county workers for other projects besides picking up trash or mowing.
NCCF inmates recently helped clean up parts of Memorial Park. They also pick up trash along Ind. 3, from Walmart to Spiceland.
They prepared the New Castle Babe Ruth and Little League diamonds for the season.
Work crews prepared the grounds for the Mooreland Fair and picked up trash afterward. They also helped set up and take down Christmas trees at the Wilbur Wright Birthplace & Museum.
Men from NCCF distribute food at Second Harvest Food Bank once a month.
Thanks to a large plot of land at New Castle Correctional Facility, community service work crews also farmed and harvested 2,435 pounds of vegetables for God’s Grain Bin in 2017.
The work crews have also participated in the annual United Fund Day of Caring.
“NCCF believes that working in the community instills a sense of pride in the inmates,” Strobel said. “It gives them an opportunity to also build healthy work habits (getting up early, reporting to a boss, teamwork, professionalism, etc.) and also acquire some experience and maybe even a trade.”
Strobel recalled that a group of inmates working at Summit Lake were taught how to do water rescue in frozen bodies of water in case one of their fellow workers or a member of the park staff were in danger.
“This would be an invaluable tool if such an unfortunate event would ever arise, while out on a work crew or even in daily life,” Strobel said.
Inmates cannot work on private property, Strobel said.