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Closure of Indiana juvenile boot camp put on hold

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State officials are delaying the closure of a paramilitary-style boot camp for juvenile offenders in northwestern Indiana.

Gov. Mike Pence's office said Monday that any changes to Camp Summit Boot Camp near LaPorte are on hold.

"It is critical to Governor Pence that all feedback be taken into consideration and he has asked the Department of Corrections to hold on the transition for the time being so that we can continue to work with those affected," Pence spokeswoman Kara Brooks told The Times of Munster.

The Department of Correction announced in late August it would close the boot camp by Oct. 1 and transfer the 72 teenage male inmates to community-based programs or other state facilities. The agency said it was taking the step to save money and because juvenile offenders are spending less time in the prison system.

Camp Summit, a medium-security facility opened in 1995, combines military components with programming that addresses the needs of adolescents while creating an environment for change and growth, the agency said. The LaPorte County camp sits on 60 acres about 30 miles west of South Bend.

Indiana House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said the closure was unnecessary and aimed to make the state's $2 billion surplus "look more bloated than it already is."

"It's an outrageous misalignment of priorities," Pelath said. "They need to reverse this."

State records show Camp Summit has consistently cost less to operate than other DOC juvenile facilities. Laura Gorbonosenko, Camp Summit program director, said 75 percent of its staff members are military veterans or currently serving in the military.

The average daily cost per inmate at Camp Summit in 2012-2013 was nearly $140. The next lowest was North Central Juvenile at $205. Pendleton ranked second highest at almost $290 — just over twice as much as Camp Summit.

Camp Summit has a recidivism rate of 20 percent compared to Pendleton's 40 percent, Gorbonosenko said.

Pelath said taxpayers should be upset at the possibility of closing the camp.

"Prevention is far less costly than incarceration down the road," he said.

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