Westville Correctional Facility

Westville Correctional Facility

The Westville Correctional Facility, located in Westville, Indiana, is a state-operated prison for adult males. The facility contains sections of three levels of security. The average daily population in September 2006 was approximately 3,100. At Westville, 49% of the inmate population are people of color, slightly higher than the average of 42% for the Indiana Department of Correction (DOC) as a whole. However, Westville also has a higher percentage of employees who are of color, 38%, compared to the DOC's average of 17%.

History

Westville’s history actually begins not with the opening of a new state prison but with the opening of a twenty-million dollar mental facility named the Northern Indiana Hospital. Created by the Indiana General Assembly in 1945, the facility admitted both mental patients and the criminally insane from Alaska and Indiana. Two years later, the hospital was renamed after Dr. Norman M. Beatty, a pioneer in hospital sanitation and a leading activist for improving mental health facilities. The hospital housed roughly 1750 patients in the civil section and around 500 patients in the maximum-security portion. Patients ages six and up were admitted into the hospital. Contained within the facility was an accredited school, bowling alley, beauty and barber shop, power plant, sewage disposal plant, fire department and security force. The hospital also helped students from the surrounding community benefit from internships in psychology, music, occupational, vocational and recreational therapy and also had nursing programs.

In 1977, legislation was passed that transformed the Norman Beatty Mental Hospital from a mental facility into a prison, the Westville Correctional Facility. In addition to the change in the type of residents at the facility, there also needed to be a change in the type of care provided. This was a very significant change for the facility because the vast difference between the two types of institutions. Through the two year period between 1977 and 1979, the proportion of inmates increased and the number of mental patients decreased until, in June 1979, only inmates remained. Following the final transition into a prison came the construction of education and industrial complexes, gymnasium, multi-purpose building and chapel. In addition, a fence, extra lighting and watch towers were added for security reasons. Soon, what was originally intended to be a medium-security prison housing 1,200 inmates became a prison with inmates ranging from trustee offenders to maximum security and a population of over 3,000.

Programs

Westville offers a wide variety of programs to help rehabilitate inmates and give back to the community. Perhaps the most important program is the prison’s educational program, Reintegration into Society through Education (RISE). The inmates have the opportunity to take programs on ELS, general literacy, GED, and vocational programs in auto body, building trades, culinary arts, electronics and many others. One of the prison’s stated philosophies is that the best way for a prisoner to reenter society is through education. Another program offered by Westville is Thinking for a Change, a course that attempts to teach inmates “an objective systematic approach to identifying thinking, beliefs, attitudes and values.” This program hopes to teach the inmates positive social skills and to change the core thinking to more constructive and beneficial behaviors. In addition to these programs, other courses on substance abuse, transitioning from prison life back into society and many others are offered. The prison also offers college degree programs through Purdue University North Central. Associate and Bachelor degrees are awarded every year to inmates. Since the DOC began giving time cuts for inmates that complete certain educational programs, many have obtained earlier releases. The facility focuses on keeping fathers connected with their children while in prison through programs such as Long Distance Dads which try to help the men develop better parenting skills in order to become more involved with their children. The prison has a children’s library for the fathers to use while visiting with their children.

A new program introduced by the prison is Mixed Up Mutts, which allows inmates to work with stray dogs and teach them basic obedience skills. The prison hopes that this program gives the inmates a very satisfying interaction with animals and that it has a general positive effect on them.

The prison also has many different industrial programs such as the Lions Club Eyeglass Recycling Program, Compost Recycling Program and Prison Enterprise Network (PEN). The Lions Club Program has inmates sort through and clean donated glasses which are then sorted by prescription. So far the program has processed over two million pairs of glasses. The Compost Program allows inmates to develop skills for using machinery from “shovels and rakes to operation of heavy equipment” while processing the compost in the surrounding area of the prison. The PEN program offers inmates the opportunity to make a range of different products that are sold both within the prison and commercially.

Lawsuits

For Westville’s relatively short history, it has had several prominent legal battles. In 1988, the prison was ordered to move 130 female inmates to other state facilities in order to comply with a lawsuit filed claiming that women received unfair treatment at the prison. According to several inmates, the women at Westville were not allowed options such as work opportunities outside the facility, General Equivalency Diploma program and literacy program.

As recently as 2004, Westville faced two legal battles both pertaining to violations of freedoms. The first dealt with an officer assigned to the vehicle trap, Nancy Spiegla, who began to notice suspicious activity by two officers outside of the gates of the prison. Spiegla witnessed two officers transferring large bags from cars. When the officers attempted to enter the facility, Speigla demanded that she be allowed to search their car, which was a routine duty of hers. However, the officers argued that law enforcement vehicles were exempt from this rule and rejected the car search. Later, Speigla decided to inform the assistant superintendent about the incident but was surprised when nothing was done about the matter and she was demoted to a lower-ranking position with a pay cut. Speigla pursued her complaint in court which ultimately ruled in her favor. However, she was never given back her original position. This story brought attention to a major problem at Westville: drug trafficking by staff.

The second case involved Robert Badelle # 7130 , an inmate at Westville, and a letter he wrote to the superintendent. In 1977, Badelle had been charged with murder and sentenced to a prison term of thirty years, even though Badelle and two Indiana police officers maintain that he is innocent. Upset one night about his imprisonment, Badelle decided to write the superintendent a letter in which he explained his discontent and his thoughts of escaping. On reading the letter, the superintendent alerted the DOC and 5 extra years were added on to Badelle’s sentence. “The DOC claimed that mentioning one’s intent to flee is the same as trying to escape…” Badelle filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus and won, and the added sentence was removed. In addition to this, the court ruled that Badelle should indeed be transferred to another prison. According to Badelle’s lawyer, Westville is a very dangerous “hellhole” and is only meant for “short-termers” and younger men.

The most controversial lawsuit involved inmate Donald W. Holtz #863446 In August 1986, Holtz was committed to the “Psychiatric Unit” of Westville because of an alleged suicide threat. Once there, he was put on several medications; however, no doctor examination was administered before or after he began taking the medication. After almost 17 months of taking the medication, Holtz one day refused to take his medications. He was then placed in a four-way restraint and given medication through a series of shots all while remaining in seclusion for three days. He then filed suit over the inhumane conditions at the facility including overcrowding, beds placed fewer than 18 inches part and, worst of all, staff who failed to intervene in fights or sexual assaults.

Incidents

In April 2000, an inmate from Westville, Phillip Woods #885529 , entered an industrial dishwasher and according to his mother, came out looking like a “skinned squirrel.” Normally, the dishwasher is set to a temperature of around 150 degrees Fahrenheit but had recently been moved up to 180 degrees on the recommendation of a recent health department visit. After Woods woke from his coma, he blamed the Aryan Brotherhood, a group of inmates at the prison, for his injuries. The DOC maintains that Woods had in the past gone into the dishwasher voluntary to win bets and that this occasion was no different. Shortly after this incident Woods died while in the hospital.

The statement above about his death may be untrue. According to the Indiana Department of Correction website at: http://www.in.gov/apps/indcorrection/ofs/?offnum=885529&search2.x=47&search2.y=17 his Facility/Location is listed as: "Returned to court authority on release" A dead offender would be listed as "deceased" if he had died in prison.

The above statement, stating that the statement about Mr. Woods death may be false is in fact false itself. Any offender who is no longer in the prison system is classified as "Released", even though they may be deceased. According to the website, Mr. Woods has not committed another crime since 1999, the crime where it is stated that he died in prison. I, #181593, am classified as released. I was sent to Work Release in May of 2008, and was classified as Released then, even though I was still serving a DOC sentence.

References

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