MADISON, Indiana — The Indiana Department of Correction plans to close the state prison in Michigan City for a new facility in Westville, a decision that caught some members of the Indiana State Budget Committee off guard.

“This is a very interesting evolution, to say the least,” State Rep. Ed DeLaney said.

Several members called into question the internal IDOC decision, which was made long after the latest budget was approved, to close the prison and the current Westville Correctional Facility to make way for that new $1.2B facility.

“I was on the ways and means committee and I don’t remember being advised that we were suddenly talking about two prisons rather than one prison,” DeLaney said.

IDOC Commissioner Christina Reagle said although closing the state prison wasn’t part of the original plan, doing so will save the state $45M a year in operating costs.

“The annual operating savings alone of closing the ISP would create a payback of less than 20 years on this project and we avoid nearly $400M in capital asks,” Reagle said.

But some committee members weren’t so sure the benefits justify the new facility’s $1.2B price tag.

”We added $800M to build one prison just for the cost of inflation,” State Sen. Fady Qaddoura said.

”Even though you say we’re going to save money over a 20-year period or whatever, I still think it’s astronomical the dollars being spent,” State Rep. Gregory Porter said.

However, Reagle argued Indiana is not the only state facing these kinds of costs for updated correctional facilities.

”The size of this facility contributes to the dollar amount,” Reagle said. “We’ve visited facilities of a similar size, and all of them have been about a billion dollars.”

When completed, the new Westville facility will be able to hold 4,200 incarcerated individuals (making it the largest facility in the state). Reagle said the design work for the facility is 95 percent complete, and that the IDOC plans to break ground on the facility before this winter.