By Hannah Troyer
INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana prison inmates will no longer be a part of the license plate production process as of May 1.
The Indiana Department of Motor Vehicles ended its contract with a company earlier this month that had worked with Prison Enterprises Network, which employed the state prison inmates.
PEN is a division of the Indiana Department of Corrections.
But the new vendor – Intellectual Technology Inc., which now is in charge of the production of license plates – estimated the state could save $14 million over five years by not using prison labor.
The California-based company handled the registration documents for the state for years but will expand its duties to production and facilitation of the license plates.
“We expect to find other prison industry jobs for the offenders affected,” Doug Garrison, IDOC’s chief communications officer said. “The IDOC welcomed the long-term association and partnership with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to make license plates, and wish the BMV well in their new venture.”
Inmates making the license plates were maximum-security offenders – with some serving life sentences.
On Monday, some House Democrats expressed concerned about the legitimacy of the millions of dollars in saving. Rep. Dan Forestal, D- Indianapolis, addressed his concerns during the House session on Monday.
Forestal attempted to amend a bill involving the life cycle of license plates. Forestal proposed a look back provision to analyze the actual savings of changing the license plate production compared to the company’s estimated savings.
“I am concerned that they will never look back on something they have passed on that was handled by the state to a private company,” he said. “The company (projected) savings and no one will look back to see if the savings came. I’m very concerned about it and Hoosiers are concerned.
“Projected and actual savings are too separate things. We want to look at projected savings but not whether the savings were realized.”
The proposed amendments – which were struck down in roll call votes – would have required the BMV to include the total amount of money saved by no longer utilizing prison labor in its annual report to the Roads Committee.
“I was surprised (the amendments failed.) The amendments were common sense,” Forestal said. “Members of the majority party came to the podium and said it was a good idea, but voted against it. I don’t know what they are trying to protect.”
Hannah Troyer is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.