Ind. switching vendor for license plate production

Ends a long-time relationship in which state prison inmates were involved in the manufacturing of the plates

By Chelsea Schneider
Evansville Courier & Press

INDIANAPOLIS — The state is changing the vendor it uses for the production of Indiana license plates, a decision that ends a long-time relationship in which state prison inmates were involved in the manufacturing of the plates.

The new $72 million contract with Intellectual Technology, Inc., will save the state approximately $14 million by not using prison labor over its five-year term, a spokesman with the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles said on Monday.

The California-based company will facilitate the production and distribution of license plates, according to a contract signed and made effective earlier this month. ITI will also continue handling registration documents for the state, as it did under a previous contract.

Previously, the state worked with a separate company, who then contracted with PEN (Prison Enterprises Network), which is a division of the Indiana Department of Corrections, for work involving the manufacturing of license plates. The plates were made at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City by maximum security offenders serving either lengthy or life sentences.

As of May 1, inmates will no longer be involved in the production of plates, according to BMV spokesman Josh Gillespie. In the new contract, ITI said plate production would cost $53 million without using prison labor. That’s compared to a higher cost of $67.5 million if inmates worked on the plates, Gillespie said.

Several House Democrats took issue with the new contract when the chamber met Monday. State Rep. Dan Forestal, an Indianapolis Democrat, led an effort to require the state to study whether it saved dollars to remove the license plate work from the Department of Corrections. But his attempted amendment to a separate measure also dealing with license plates failed.

“It looks back to see whether or not those savings were realized,” Forestal said on the new contract.

House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, a Michigan City Democrat, said involving inmates in the production of license plates helps manage the prison population.

“The busier (the inmates) stay, the safer the environment is for correctional officers,” Pelath said.

The Department of Corrections has been involved in the production of license plates for more than 80 years, said Doug Garrison, spokesman for the agency. However, Garrison said PEN has more clients outside of license plates.

“It affects us in the sense that the offenders that formerly worked at those jobs will no longer have them, but we expect we will find other jobs for them,” Garrison said in an emailed statement.

Gillespie said the production of license plates will remain in Indiana, as ITI is building a new production facility in Fort Wayne and bringing jobs to the area.

“This is actually a win-win for Indiana,” Gillespie said.

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