Prison Produce Donations Exceed One Ton

Prison Food Pantry Donation Photo
(Photo Courtesy of the Westville Correctional Facility) 
The gardens at Westville Correctional Facility (WCC) are producing thousands of pounds of vegetables for donation to local food pantries as the harvest hits the midway point.
Offenders can be seen carrying boxes of picked peppers, cucumbers, zucchini squash, cabbages and onions, while the tomatoes, potatoes, watermelon and others are still ripening for a banner year of produce.  It is all part of an effort throughout the Indiana Department of Correction facilities promoted by Commissioner Bruce Lemmon. 
At WCC, the inmates are in competition with each other maintaining five different gardens.   Each has a different combination of vegetables and harvest schedule.
In May, offenders began the effort by tilling the soil where grass had predominated for years.  Offenders used their backs to remove the sod and break up the soil beneath. Trucks of rich top soil and fertile loam were brought in to prepare the gardens.  The recreation department provided the seed and young plants for the first planting. 
As of this past week, 2,124 pounds of vegetables had been harvested before the gardens had even reached their peak.  An estimated 500 pounds a week should be harvested over the next several weeks.
According to Superintendent Mark Levenhagen all the produce is donated to local food pantries.   “This is truly a dividend that benefits many needy citizens throughout our communities,” he said.
Offender Damarlan Norris said, “It was great to work the garden from the start and see the fruits of my work.”  Indeed, officials note that the labor seems soothing to offenders and the gardening has a positive impact. Norris said it felt good to work the earth by hand and create something that had not existed before.
Offenders whose first wish was to simply get off the dorm or get exercise soon found themselves involved in an on-going and very satisfying endeavor.  Like Norris, they could see positive results from their work. 
This was particularly gratifying to offenders who had never done gardening before. Offender Willis Peavey said, “It has been a learning experience that has taught me a lot.”  Offender Rusty Land, proudly holding up a two feet long zucchini, said he was impressed with what he could do.
Meanwhile, nearly a dozen pantries in the community have been the beneficiaries of the garden produce.   LaPorte Fellowship and Good Shepherd Food Pantry in Westville, St. Paul Lutheran Soup Kitchen and First Presbyterian in Michigan City and other community pantries in Knox, Rolling Prairie, Valparaiso and Hanna all have been receiving regular deliveries.
For some inmates,” said Levenhagen, “the local food pantry is crucial in helping them get back on their feet when they get released.  They can relate to the need on a personal basis.”
About Westville Correctional Facility:
Westville Correctional Facility was converted from a state mental health hospital to a prison in 1977.  It is situated on over 700 acres in La Porte County, and contains minimum, medium and maximum security units.  Nearly 3400 offenders are housed at WCC, and over 2400 are retuned to the community annually from WCC. 
About the Indiana Department of Correction:
The Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) employs over 8,000 staff and houses nearly 28,000 adult and juveniles in 20 adult and 5 juvenile facilities.  About 1,000 more are housed in contracted facilities or contracted county jail beds.  An additional 10,000 adults are monitored by 9 parole districts.  IDOC collaboratively funds community corrections programs in 78 counties. Our internet home page can be found at: Our Re-entry Site can be found at:
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$10,000 Reward Offered for Return of Missing Coins

canadian coins
(Photo Courtesy of the Lake County Sheriff's Office)

A ten-thousand dollar reward is being offered for the return of 124 one-ounce platinum Canadian Maple Leaf coins, or information leading to the arrest and conviction of individuals involved in the theft.  The Lake County Sheriff's Office reports the coins were taken from a residence in Crown Point and is asking that anyone who may have seen the coins to please contact them, at (219) 755-3334.
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Valpo PD Earns CALEA Re-accreditation

Valpo PD
The Valparaiso Police Department in 2010, for the first time, achieved accreditation through The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA).
Every three years the department must be re-inspected and re-evaluated for it to maintain the CALEA accreditation. This past June the
department was re-evaluated and recently Chief Brickner and the department learned that the Valparaiso Police Department had earned their accreditation for the second time.
In 2010 after the department’s first accreditation Police Chief Michael Brickner explained the accreditation is not just a piece of paper, but rather means the department meets tough national standards on everything from how it uses deadly force, to whether it  pursues a fleeing vehicle to how it recruits employees to make sure it gets the best police force.
Brickner said the department, which he deemed already excellent before beginning the accreditation process, had to re-think every aspect of how it does business
and is much stronger because of it, "One of our goals was to become one of the elite police departments ... one of the most professional and innovative," Brickner said. "It (accreditation) has elevated us to the level we wanted to get
In addition, departmental policies that fall in line with national guidelines should decrease lawsuits or the department's exposure in lawsuits. "Once again, this is a wonderful accomplishment for our department," Chief Brickner said.

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Improving School Safety Efforts in Indiana

Gov Mike Pence
Indianapolis, IN – Governor Mike Pence today received the findings of the school safety study group regarding improved school safety efforts in Indiana.
“The safety and security of schools in Indiana remains a top priority for our administration,” said Governor Pence. “As we begin a new school year, I am grateful to the Superintendent of Public Instruction, our state agencies and local law enforcement and mental health professionals for their leadership in helping Indiana’s agencies, schools, law enforcement personnel, and organizations work collaboratively and cohesively for the good of all students. In the coming weeks and months, we will continue to work and pray for a safe and successful school year for Hoosiers across the state.”
The report recommends the State centralize, house and maintain pertinent information such as best practices, legislative updates, resource links and training opportunities in a multidisciplinary website dedicated to school safety. In an effort to provide thorough preparedness and response training, it suggests that seminars or exercises related to student safety or school security that are carried out by an agency or division be made available to all entities or individuals who regularly and directly interact with schools and Hoosier students. In addition, the Department of Child Services, Department of Mental Health and Addictions, and the Department of Correction will continue to strive toward developing a process to aid in the seamless transition for Hoosiers among agencies and service providers, as well as a parental consent form to release all pertinent information to schools.
The group endorsed the final report and accepted a report from the Department of Homeland Security on SEA 1, the Secured School Safety Grant Program passed earlier this year. The group also accepted the Safe School Active Shooter Training Overview from the Indiana State Police.
Pence serves as chair of the school safety study group. Additional members include Glenda Ritz (Department of Education), John Hill (Department of Homeland Security), Doug Carter (Indiana State Police), Mary Allen (Indiana Criminal Justice Institute), Bruce Lemmon (Department of Correction), Marty Umbarger (Indiana National Guard), Kevin Moore (Department of Mental Health & Addictions), Mary Beth Bonaventura (Department of Child Services), Chris Atkins (Office of Management and Budget), Jeff Cardwell (Office of Faith and Community Based Initiatives), Larry John (East Central Educational Services), Ben Hunter (Butler University), Steve Luce (Indiana Sheriffs Association), and Michael Ward (Indiana Chiefs of Police Association).

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NWS: Stay Out of the Water, Dangerous Conditions

The National Weather Service is warning people visiting beaches in Lake and Porter County today to stay out out the water until early tomorrow morning. Officials report dangerous swimming conditions are expected, with high wave action and strong rip currents along the beaches.
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LaPorte Couple Arrested for Possession of Heroin

gabral robinson
(Photos Courtesy of the LaPorte Police Dept)

dawn robinson
LaPorte County Sheriff Michael Mollenhauer on Monday announced the third and fourth arrest in the last week that involve heroin. Sheriff Mollenhauer says the County's Metro Operations Unit will continue to actively pursue those who are involved in the heroin problems in the LaPorte area. Investigators from the Metro Operations Unit arrested a LaPorte couple on Monday related to possession of heroin, 31 year old Gabral and Dawn Robinson, who were arrested without incident Monday at their home in the three-hundred block of Jefferson Avenue.  Both had been wanted on warrants issued through LaPorte County Circuit Court

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Water Main Break in Munster

Police in Munster say River Drive closed this morning between Monroe and Jefferson Avenues due to a water main break.  Repairs were being made.

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Gary Finalist in Hometown Host Contest

A Lake County resident is among five finalists in the Hoosier Lottery's Hometown Host contest.  Hoosier Lottery live ball drawings will soon be back on the air throughout the state and the Hoosier Lottery and FOX59 in Indianapolis are conducting a statewide talent search to cast on-air draw talent.    Last week the public was invited to view the 20 semi-finalists' entries and vote for their favorite Hometown Host online at or  Hoosiers narrowed the list down to the top five finalists.
Those finalists are Heather Cruise of Fort Wayne, Robin La'Toya of Gary, Lisa Wright Minter of Indianapolis, Chayzee Smith of Indianapolis and Jennifer Wilkens of Anderson.  The finalists videos can be viewed at  The public is invited to watch the top five finalists audition live at the Indiana State Fair before a panel of local celebrity judges Friday, Aug. 16 at 5 p.m. in the Farm Bureau Building at the Indiana State Fair.
The Hometown Host winner will be expected to step into the role when Daily 3 and the Daily 4 live ball drawings begin airing statewide early this fall.

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Wheelchair Vehicle Manufacturer Expanding in NWI

A wheelchair lift and wheelchair vehicle manufacturer is expanding in Northwest Indiana.  The Braun Corporation has announced plans to expand their headquarters in Winamac, creating up to seventy new jobs by 2016.   The company will relocate production from its facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan, to Winamac.  The new production line, which is expected to be fully operational late next year, will allow Braun to convert additional Dodge, Chrysler, Honda and Toyota minivans into rear-entry, wheelchair accessible vehicles.   As part of the expansion, Braun will also install a new line to convert trucks and SUVs.  
"With their vision and drive, Hoosiers have a way of making the world a better place," said Governor Mike Pence. "Through Ralph Braun's ingenuity to develop new ways to expand mobility, he built a business and a legacy that helps expand opportunities for individuals around the world. I'm proud that as a state that works, Indiana provided the best business climate for Braun to build this company and help people maintain active lives, regardless of physical limitation."
"We are truly excited about what our growth plans mean for our customers, our employees, as well as the local community and the state of Indiana," said Nick Gutwein, president of Braun. "We firmly believe there is no better place to invest than Pulaski County. Here, in rural Indiana, we have been able to build a company over four decades with men and women who have a true desire to create the best products. They are skilled, possess a very strong work ethic and instinctively believe in putting customers first. This incredible workforce, combined with government policy by Indiana lawmakers who understand business and economic growth, continue to make Winamac our location of choice."
Founded in 1972 by Ralph Braun out of a desire to improve his own mobility, Braun designs and manufactures wheelchair lifts and wheelchair accessible vehicles. In addition to its Winamac headquarters, the company also has facilities located in Elkhart, Ind., Florida, Arizona and Sweden. Braun's products are distributed globally.
The Indiana Economic Development Corporation offered The Braun Corporation up to $500,000 in conditional tax credits and up to $100,000 in training grants based on the company's job creation plans. These incentives are performance-based, meaning until Hoosiers are hired, the company is not eligible to claim incentives. Pulaski County approved additional tax abatement at the request of Pulaski County Economic Development.
Braun, which currently has more than 800 full-time employees in Indiana, has already begun hiring additional production line associates and will fill engineering, management, information technology, sales, marketing and aftersales positions over the next year. Interested candidates can apply in person or visit
"With Braun's longstanding history in the community and the number of residents that they employ, it is obvious what a valuable component they are to Winamac and all of Pulaski County," said Jay Sullivan, president of the Pulaski County Council. "Pulaski County and Winamac celebrate this expansion and welcome this news of new jobs for Hoosiers and continued investment in our community, and we're excited to be able to assist and encourage them, now and in the future."

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Gas Prices Dropping

Have you filled up your car in the last few days? Chances are it cost you less.  New government figures show prices are down 7 cents in the past week and 16 cents compared to a year ago at this time. Gas Buddy analyst Tom Kloza says expect prices to stay lower. "We're going to be producing more oil in October than we're importing," Kloza said. "We haven't seen anything like that since the 1980's".  The biggest drop in the past week has been in the Midwest... and in Indiana the statewide average for a gallon of regular unleaded is about $3.45, according to Triple-A's Daily Fuel Gauge Report. In the Gary metropolitan area, the average is about 3-dollars-57 cents, nearly twenty-cents lower than a week ago.

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