The inmates at the Shelby County Corrections Center could be living and working in a more eco-friendly facility later this year, as steps are being taken to conserve energy and save money at the prison that sits on more than 110 acres near Shelby Farms.
At a forum last month, Shelby County Department of Corrections Director James Coleman announced he and his staff would upgrade the prison to become a sustainable facility. Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell said that sustainability programs are part of Shelby County's overall plan to reduce expenses and increase efficiency. Luttrell said the correctional system is a great place to start.
"It's a huge facility that is costly to maintain," Luttrell said. "Some of the buildings in the correctional facility date back to the 1930s. We want to see what we can do to maintain costs in an aging facility and at the same time be good stewards of the environment."
After teaming up with Green Prisons Inc. and the Indiana Department of Corrections, the Shelby County Corrections Center has begun a cost analysis of greening the prison, looking into everything from solar-powered lighting to alternative cooking methods.
Coleman said that he is already developing a recycling program within the prison rather that outsourcing for recycling pick-up. Recycling within the prison would create jobs for inmates and save money by not going through a private company, Coleman said.
"There are a lot of savings to be realized, but it goes beyond that. If we can get [the inmates] into a mindset of recycling, when they go home they can benefit the community even more," Coleman said.
Tommy Norris, CEO of Green Prisons Inc., said more of America's prisons will likely go green as taxpayers begin to save money from reduced energy cost.
"The reality is that prisons and jails toil away in the shadows. We take the folks who have not been able to function in society, and it's out of sight, out of mind," Norris said. "But what you will see is that correctional facilities will be in the forefront of this movement because of the huge opportunities for savings to the taxpayers."
In addition to the Shelby County Corrections Center, the Shelby County Administration Building at 160 N. Main, will be among the first buildings to receive sustainable improvements.
Luttrell said that the two facilities will serve as the pilot project for the rest of the government buildings in Shelby County, and he hopes one building in particular will benefit as the project moves forward.
"We hope to be very aggressive with other buildings as the opportunity presents itself. [The] 201 Poplar [building] is a real energy sinkhole, and we want to try to tackle that building," Luttrell said.