WESTVILLE | Even though they are locked up in a prison, the inmates at Westville Correctional Facility have found ways to help others in need. During the past year, they donated $5,800 of their funds to help multiple local agencies.
Beneficiaries include $1,500 for the Cub Scouts, $1,100 for the Special Olympics, $500 each for the Indiana Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the food bank of Westville and Hanna; the Westville Schools backpack program; and the Eagles to landscape a children’s picnic area, the Michigan City food bank, the Portage school system for basketball equipment and uniforms, and $200 for the LaPorte Jaycees’ needy children Christmas program.
They also gave $1,000 to the facility’s PLUS program for supplies and materials. About 200 offenders are involved in this faith and character based program that stresses the values of compassion, honesty, respect, responsibility and tolerance.
“These donations have become a recurring theme among all our state prisons,” Department of Correction Commissioner Bruce Lemmon said. “Every year the inmate’s donations seem to get larger and expand to more recipients.”
The facility also assists by providing thousands of hours of free inmate labor each year to various other agencies. Offenders work every week with the Indiana Department of Transportation and with the Department of Natural Resources at the Jasper-Pulaski Tree Nursery, Indiana Dunes State Park and Tippecanoe State Park.
An additional crew works throughout the area, tearing down abandoned buildings in Gary, cleaning and painting National Guard armories, picking up road trash and more. These inmate crews eliminate the need to hire additional government workers at taxpayers’ expense.
“Preparing inmates to return to their community upon release is a primary function of any prison,” Westville Superintendent Mark Levenhagen said. “One way to achieve this is to have them start assisting the local communities before they even get released. Recognizing they have a responsibility to those around them increases the likelihood of their future success.”