LAPORTE, Indiana — The Indiana Department of Correction plans to close a paramilitary style boot camp in northwestern Indiana by Oct. 1 to save money and because juvenile offenders are spending less time in the prison system, the agency said.
The 72 teenage males now housed at Camp Summit Boot Camp near LaPorte will be transferred to community-based programs or other state juvenile correctional facilities, the agency said in a news release Friday.
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.
The DOC said its Division of Youth Services created in 2009 has tried to reduce the length of stay of juveniles in its secure facilities and to assign them to less restrictive settings based on their individual cases. As a result, the number of youths held in Indiana's juvenile correctional facilities has fallen from more than 1,200 in 2007 to just over 400 currently.
Only those youths who pose the greatest public safety risk are incarcerated in juvenile correctional facilities, the agency said.
"At-risk youth are spending less time in prison and are returning to community programs as quickly as possible to reunite them with their families and provide them with the support they need to be responsible citizens," DOC Commissioner Bruce Lemmon said in a statement.
The DOC isn't entirely abandoning the boot camp model, however. The Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility northeast of Indianapolis plans to expand a paramilitary program called Future Soldiers that prepares youth for potential military enlistment by teaching leadership, self-reliance and responsibility and good citizenship, the agency said.
The DOC news release did not say how much money closing Camp Summit will save the state. However, it said about 50 employees there can transfer to other facilities or apply for vacant positions throughout the department once the camp closes.
Indiana House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, criticized the impending closing, saying it will eliminate 70 LaPorte County jobs and an important service for Indiana youths.
Closing Camp Summit "would be particularly crazy because the state is shuttering a program that has a demonstrated impact in turning around the lives of troubled youths," Pelath said. "At any time at Camp Summit, close to 100 youth across Indiana have the chance to resume their education, receive counseling and gain the skills that will enable them to return to society and care for themselves."