IDOC misconduct earns $1.3 billion payday, secures Indiana’s for-profit incarceration business model

Editor’s note: This article was originally published by IDOC Watch. The author, Landis Reynolds #157028, is currently incarcerated at Correctional Industrial Facility. Contact Landis at or write to him at Landis Reynolds #157028, CIF, 5124 W Reformatory Rd, Pendleton, IN 46064.

It is hardly news that Indiana lawmakers have approved the construction of a new prison with a staggering $1.3 billion price tag. The cost of the new facility was previously estimated at $400 million prior to Covid. IDOC later claimed post-pandemic inflation added $800 million to the overall budget after other state legislatures approved similar billion-dollar prison construction projects. Surprisingly this cost increase failed to raise eyebrows among Indiana taxpayers.

According to IDOC officials, the billion-dollar facility is sorely needed to cure chronic overcrowding and allow the closure of Indiana State Prison, which reportedly suffers from a crumbling infrastructure. Beyond this myth lies the truth. Prison overcrowding has been artificially induced through over a decade of strategic internal policy decisions designed to achieve a desired goal: billion-dollar prison expansion.

Decade-long effort to manufacture overcrowding

Artificial overcrowding was not achieved overnight. It was part of a decade long coordinated initiative involving the manipulation of prison disciplinary policy, the removal of reformative time-cut programming, exploitation of the 2014 revision of the criminal code, and increased recommitment of technical parole violators. IDOC’s targeted efforts resulted in the near doubling of the Indiana prison population in less than a decade.

Corruption of prison discipline

IDOC claims the Adult Disciplinary Code is necessary to foster individual accountability and responsibility amongst the prisoner population. Yet, in recent years the Disciplinary Code has been weaponized against prisoners working to right their moral compasses, instead of fostering accountability as is frequently claimed. The frequency of conduct reports being issued has drastically increased along with the overall disciplinary conviction rate. This drastic increase is not due to an increase in anti-social behavior. The drastic increase has been implemented at the direction of prison administrators.

Prison terms can be extended by months, or even years, for minor conduct violations such as refusing a job assignment, possessing unauthorized property, or defending one’s self against physical assault. Indiana law allows complete restoration of good time deprived due to misconduct, contingent on good behavior. But IDOC has created policies to permanently prevent the restoration of this good time. Extended prison terms equal extended opportunity for economic exploitation, while also artificially driving up the overall prison population.

Ulterior parole reincarceration

In 2014 Indiana legislators passed HEA 1140. HEA 1140 was meant to prevent paroles, struggling to rebuild their lives, from being returned to prison for minor technical violations. Prior to the legislator’s action, parolees were being returned to prison for years simply for failing to report a change in address, being fired from a job, or failing a drug screen. HEA 1140 required the Indiana Parole Board and IDOC to create and implement a schedule of community based “Progressive Parole Sanctions.” This law was critical to limit the absolute discretion possessed by IDOC and the Indiana Parole Board who benefit from reincarcerating parolees.

A ‘schedule’ of progressive parole sanctions would, in theory, legally require parole agents to follow progressive steps in the treatment of technical violators, eliminating arbitrary reincarcerations. In response, IDOC created loose policies allowing the use of intermediate sanctions. They blatantly violated the legislative mandate to create a specific schedule of progressive parole sanctions, which would largely halt parole reincarceration. They also willfully refused to create judicial review procedures designed to allow a court to review recommitments based on technical violations. The refusal to implement these policies is significant in light of the Parole Board’s Mission to “… assist in the successful reintegration of parolees into the community…”

Similar to the hotel industry, a profit based penal system must manipulate its population in order to maximize profits and limit liabilities. Parole provides the perfect mechanism to do so. At any time when it serves the penal system to do so the parole board can relieve pressure by releasing parolees being held on indeterminate sentences due to technical violations. IDOC is not in the business of relieving pressure. Pressure is profitable. On the other hand, parole agents can use or manufacture technical violations to recommit parolees when vacancies must be filled to meet the economic or political needs of the system, thereby maintaining pressure. Over the last decade, this practice has fueled artificial overcrowding and a false case for the construction of a new prison.

Removal of reformative programming and exploitation of 2024 criminal code revision

Other tools were used in this coordinated effort to manufacture overcrowding. Educational credit time-cut opportunities were removed or severely limited state-wide. College was pulled from Indiana prisons in 2010. Many vocational programs were axed. Those programs that remained had the educational credit prisoners were eligible for considerably decreased. Even the apprenticeship program offered in partnership with the U.S.D.O.L. was abruptly pulled from Indiana prisons. Fewer educational opportunities meant the issuance of fewer time cuts and guaranteed longer stays. The negative impact on rehabilitation was clearly seen as a necessary evil.

The 2014 Criminal Code overhaul was promoted as being necessary to have a de-carceral effect, meaning decreasing the overall prison population statewide. Due to changes in the structure of sentencing laws, many new prisoners were classified as level four or maximum security. Many lower security prisoners had their security level raised for minor conduct reports. With a limited number of maximum-security facilities, IDOC found band-aid solutions while their policies willfully exacerbated maximum-security overcrowding. It is not a coincidence that max facilities come with a much higher price tag.

Manipulation becomes malfeasance

Direct manipulation nearly doubled the prison population in a decade. Currently the Indiana prison population hovers near thirty thousand inmates. When the manipulations of the past decade were not enough to create a compelling case for a new prison, IDOC resorted to blatant falsification.

Contrary to claims of overcrowding, Miami Correctional Facility, a 3200-bed institution, has been operating at less than half its capacity for nearly two years. The entire Phase One side, encompassing six dormitories collectively capable of housing more than 1200 prisoners, remains curiously empty. Correctional Industrial Facility, which normally houses more than 1400 prisoners, also shut down three dormitories capable of housing nearly four hundred prisoners. Westville too has idled several dormitories. IDOC quietly cited short staffing as the catalyst for the temporary closure of these dorms, resulting in the vacancy of nearly two thousand beds. During the pandemic when staffing was an issue, IDOC activated National Guard units to meet staffing needs. A simple solution to a seemingly simple problem. It defies reason that Indiana taxpayers have paid millions of dollars to heat and maintain empty buildings failing to serve their function of rehabilitating Indiana prisoners. Now taxpayers are footing the $1.3 billion dollar bill for a 6,000-bed facility when IDOC cannot fill its current capacity. What is the true purpose of idling so many beds?

Other forms of population manipulation failed to bring prisons overcrowding to critical levels. By idling a large portion of available housing under the guise of short staffing artificial overcrowding received the necessary nudge to become a critical problem.

Despite current popular narratives, crime is not rampant, and prisons are not overcrowded in Indiana. Even with current levels of conviction, IDOC cannot fill the beds currently available without resorting to unethical strategies at great cost to taxpayers and at even greater cost to prisoners struggling to rebuild their lives. The construction of a new $1.3 billion dollar prison will only exacerbate the issue. It will require more staff that IDOC reportedly cannot source. It will add six thousand more beds to a capacity that already cannot be filled.

Filling this capacity will require a mission that is antithetical to rehabilitation. It will require continued and expanded use of unethical strategies like ulterior parole reincarceration that is more akin to an abduction and hostage situation than it is to assistance with successful reintegration. It fulfills the expansion of incarceration legalizing slavery and involuntary servitude, which is underwritten by the Thirteenth Amendment.

Law and order nullified through for-profit prison expansion

While artificial overcrowding was on the rise, the availability of effective reformative programming was on the decline. Programs such as PLUS have been gutted and are largely staffed by outside volunteers and funded by fundraisers. Vocational programming capable of giving men and women a competitive edge during re-entry is almost non-existent or the curriculums are perfunctory at best. $1.3 billion dollars, meaningfully invested in education, restorative justice, and comprehensive drug treatment could revolutionize rehabilitation in Indiana prisons. If in fact rehabilitation was the goal.

Prison population manipulation and the current unethical practices are not just manufacturing prison overcrowding. IDOC’s nefarious conduct is manufacturing a dangerous dynamic for Indiana prisons and the public-at-large. The blatant violation of policy and Indiana law to facilitate for-profit expansion is not lost upon Indiana’s oppressed prison population. Pushing policies and initiatives that create tense, miserable environments devoid of reformative opportunity ensures broken people are not being fixed.

The void created by the absence of reformative programming is filled with addiction and violence. Prisoners who spend years in this vacuum are funneled back to our communities more broken, more addicted, more criminal.

Corporations play the long game. IDOC is undoubtedly a corporation veiled in the veneer of a public agency. Seemingly isolated policy decisions take on an ominous character when viewed collectively over time. The truth behind the benevolent mission statements is revealed in its strategic malevolent action. The actions of IDOC, whether the manipulation of disciplinary policy, the ulterior reincarceration of parolees, or the deep cuts in rehabilitative programming, have had real world consequences. These actions have fueled IDOC’s corporate motto of “employees, efficiency, effectiveness,” or in other words, using employees to efficiently and effectively profit from the mistakes of Indiana’s downtrodden population. Yet, it has failed to accomplish its true mission, underwritten by Article One Section 18 of the Indiana Constitution mandating that “the penal code shall be founded upon principles of reformation and not vindictive justice.”

The end does not justify the means. The misconduct of IDOC in securing the new $1.3 billion dollar facility will not manufacture law and order the same way it manufactured artificial overcrowding. This new prison will be a factory of exploitation manufacturing hurt, broken, undereducated, addicted people who could have otherwise been reformed. So much for law and order.