Florida Firm Chosen to Run Indiana Prison, IN

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Department of Correction has chosen a Florida-based company as the first private firm to run a state prison in Indiana.

Correction Commissioner J. David Donahue said Tuesday that a 10-year renewable contract for GEO Group Inc. to run the New Castle Correctional Facility should be completed no later than Sept. 9.

Until then, Donahue said, the state will not release any information about the company's bid, nor the five other bids submitted. Four were by other private firms, and one was from Department of Correction employees at New Castle. Gov. Mitch Daniels told those employees last week that their bid was rejected.

Donahue said privatizing the New Castle prison would allow the facility to take in more inmates and create more jobs.

The medium-security prison currently holds about 520 adult male inmates, but has room for more than 2,400. The state has not been able to afford to hire enough guards to open other dormitories in the facility.

Donahue said in the first year of private management, the number of inmates should grow to more than 1,000 minimum and medium-security inmates, which means more jobs.

''Creating job wealth is the number one goal of Governor Daniels,'' Donahue said.

The prison could provide 500 local jobs, he said.

But Democrats said Daniels broken a campaign promise to steer state business to Indiana companies by offering the contract to a Florida firm.

''This was one of Mitch Daniels' major thrusts in the campaign, state contracts going to out-of-state firms,'' said Mike Edmondson, executive director of the Indiana Democratic Party.

George C. Zoley, chairman and chief executive officer of GEO Group, issued a statement saying the company ''will work hard to establish a public-private partnership with the state of Indiana.''

The company has made campaign contributions to both Daniels and the Indiana Republican Party, but not to Democrats. Donahue said the contributions had no bearing on GEO Group's selection.

(c)The Associated Press