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11/19/2008 5:36:00 PM
Madison women's prison to get 300 more offenders, 50 more jobs

Madison Courier

Peggy Vlerebome, Madison Courier Staff Writer

The Madison women's prison will soon hire at least 50 people, add 300 or more offenders and put up a 12-foot-high fence topped with three strands of razor ribbon.

Most of the new offenders will be Level 2, whereas the current offenders are at the lower-security Level 1. The Level 2 women will be serving sentences for the same kinds of non-violent crimes as Level 1 offenders, but will come to the Madison Correctional Facility with more time remaining in their sentences, public information officer Jennifer Saroka said.

Hiring will begin soon for entry-level corrections officers and jobs such as case managers and counselors.

"The total number of jobs to be added is still to be determined, but the increase could be significant," the women's facility said in a press release. "As many as 50 or more positions could be added by the start of 2009 with even more in the following months."

Some of the job openings will result from promotions of existing staff members, said Jan Davis, superintendent of the Madison Correctional Facility.

Corrections officers - guards - must go to the police academy for four weeks, then have a couple of weeks of on-the-job training as part of a six-month trainee status, Saroka said. Case managers and counselors must have a college degree, she said. Jobs have not been posted yet. There are two ways to apply for Department of Correction jobs - online at the state jobs bank, or at a Work One office, which in Madison is at 620 Green Road.

Mayor Tim Armstrong said he is happy about the expansion and especially about the jobs. "The additional jobs are truly needed in this area," he said.

"We are excited about bringing so many new jobs to Madison in a time that many communities are experiencing severe job losses," Indiana Department of Correction Commissioner Edwin Buss said.

Jobs are being added as the result of a recent expansion of the offender population as well as the anticipated arrival of Level 2 offenders, Saroka said.

The facility's capacity recently was raised from about 500 to 586, plus 10 beds for offenders participating in the new work-release program, Saroka said. As of Tuesday, there were 550 offenders, she said.

The facility does not expect to have more than 596 inmates until the fence is finished unless they are Level 1, she said.

The current offenders come to Madison with four years or less remaining in their prison sentences, while Level 2 inmates will have at least four years remaining, Saroka said. The hilltop facility will house both Level 1 and Level 2 offenders, with the Level 2 offenders becoming eligible for Level 1 if they have good behavior and when they have less than four years left to serve, she said.

The Level 2 inmates will not be eligible for such jobs as road crews because they will not be allowed to leave the prison grounds, Saroka said.

Level 2 inmates must be fenced in, Saroka said. Length of sentence is one criteria the Indiana Department of Correction uses to set the security level at a prison and determine when there will be a fence. Level 2 is medium security, while Level 1 is minimum security.

Saroka said a fence was needed regardless of whether Level 2 prisoners were at the facility because so many people wander onto prison property while walking, jogging or bicycling on the outer loop road. The facility tried to subtly define its boundaries and where off-limits began by putting up short sections of wrought iron fence on earthen berms, but they apparently were viewed as merely decorative. When that didn't work, more signs were posted, but that hasn't kept out people either, Saroka said.

The loop road, which has views of the Ohio River and leads to the head of the Heritage Trail, will still be accessible. The prison does not want to do anything to interfere with the public's enjoyment of the state grounds, the Heritage Trail or the outer loop, Saroka said.

Installation of the fence will start within the next week, she said. It will surround the five buildings where offenders are or will be housed. The facility's maintenance, commissary, warehouse and garage buildings will be outside the fence, Saroka said.

The reason for the prisoner expansion is that the other two women's prisons in the state are filled to capacity and do not have space to grow, Saroka said.

Since January 2007, the prison population at Indiana women's prisons has increased 13 percent, while the number of men being sent to prison has gone up 6 percent, according to the research and planning office at the Indiana Department of Correction. The Madison Correctional Facility's population has grown 65 percent since January 2007.

Copyright 2014, The Madison Courier

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