Ground was broken for the minimum/maximum security Wabash Valley Correctional Facility October 29, 1990. The following year the Department of Correction announced its intention to build another prison adjacent to the site and share some of its facilities. Completion of all phases of construction took place in mid-1997. Construction costs totaled 123 million dollars. An average daily population of 2,050 offenders is housed on the 340 acre site north of Carlisle in Sullivan County along U.S. 41. Total capacity is 2,199 with 647 approved state staff positions, 114 contractual (medical, food service, education, offender phones). Annual operating costs total nearly 42 million dollars.
Minimum-security is a dormitory setting, located outside the maximum-security fence. It consists of two open-bay wings housing up to 198 offenders.
Maximum-security north has three housing units, three with 88 two-man cells. Another unit (DHU) has a unique mission, housing offenders in the (SNAP) Special Needs Acclimation Program with 28 cells on the left side. An additional wing, with 16 cells, is a pre-hearing restricted status housing unit. The right-wing, with 44 cells, houses general population. All cells are double bunked. Average cell size is 8 by 12 feet.
The north side Secured Confinement Unit is a disciplinary/administrative restricted status housing complex, housing up to 288 offenders in single cells.
Maximum-security south includes five units, each housing up to 200 offenders in two-man cells, except for K-Unit, which has been designated as a Special Needs Unit for mentally ill offenders. There is also a 72 single cell unit on the south campus devoted to administrative and short-term restricted status housing offenders. An infirmary unit houses up to 14 offenders.
The perimeter of the facility is surrounded by two fences with rolls of razor ribbon at the bottom, center and top of the outer chain link fence, which is 14 feet high. The two fences are approximately twenty feet apart. The inner fence is a 15 feet high non-lethal $750,000 electrified “stun fence” installed in March of 2011. A microwave movement detection system is installed between the inner and outer fences. Positioned at points around the perimeter fence are 6 security towers, with armed officers in 2 strategic-need towers, providing 24-hour surveillance on the perimeter (the stun fence addition negated need to staff 4 towers); a seventh “high” tower is centrally located in the South side recreation yard. The perimeter fence is penetrated by 2 sally-ports. Two armed motor patrol officers are also assigned outside the perimeter fence 24 hours a day. Approximately 88 acres are enclosed within the perimeter fence. At the front entrance, on the west side of the facility, rest the Administration/Visitor Processing Building and the Radio Building.
Offenders are involved in the production of a wide variety of products offered through the Prison Enterprises Network. PEN Products includes a Print, License Tag, Wiring Harness and Web Gear operation, which produces products for our armed forces. A minimum-security labor line has been instrumental in providing much needed services to area communities, providing labor for projects which otherwise would be impossible to complete. Additional crews are assigned to the Department of Natural Resources.
The Education Department offers a wide range of opportunities to offenders. The facility T.A.S.C. program is coordinated through a contract with Oakland City University. Vocational Education focuses on a comprehensive Building Maintenance program. Literacy and Special Education programming is also offered to offenders through Oakland City University.
U.S. Department of Labor Apprenticeship Certificates are available to offenders in eight different occupational titles including the facility printing operation and food service, enhancing their employability upon release.
Community Services at Wabash Valley coordinates a wide variety of programs to offenders, depending on strong volunteer support from area communities. Over 375 volunteers provide services to Education, Religious Services, Recreation, Substance Abuse and Re-Entry Programs. The facility Fatherhood Program is a character based education and support endeavor that helps incarcerated fathers develop skills to become more involved and supportive with their children.
Another P.L.U.S. for the facility is Purposeful Living Units Serve, a faith and character based housing unit. Emphasis is placed on spiritual, moral and character development for offenders choosing to take part, all determined to improve their lives as they return to society as law-abiding citizens. The PLUS program received the Indiana Correctional Association 2008 Program of the Year award.
The facility operates an extensive recycling program. Waste paper and other card stock, cardboard, steel food cans, beverage cans, scrap steel, aluminum, copper, brass and motor oil solvents are recycled through contractors, and pull-tabs from aluminum soda pop cans are recycled for the Ronald McDonald House.
New in 2012, recycling barrels have been placed in all housing units (with the exception of the SNU unit). Aluminum soda cans and plastic bottles are being placed in the barrels for recycling. The recycling effort also created four new offender jobs for separation and movement of the materials.
The Wabash Valley Correctional Facility has the responsibility of managing some of the most problematic offenders in the state (maximum-security, restricted status housing, and offenders with mental and physical challenges, end of life offenders). MSNBC produced two programs in 2011(Young Kids/Hard Time and MSNBC Lockup/Extended Stay/Wabash) which illustrate our challenge to millions of viewers. Our professional, dedicated, creative, and flexible staff have implemented many beneficial programs and met unfunded mandates to ensure a well-run facility which offers offenders a genuine opportunity for growth while maintaining the public safety.
The American Correctional Association awarded formal re-accreditation to the facility in June 2018 at Indianapolis, IN.