Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Crowded Illinois Prisons

> Chicagoland Quinn's plan to close prisons put on temporary lockdown
Judge agrees with union that increasing crowding would endanger guards

By Monique Garcia, Chicago Tribune reporter

September 5, 2012

A southern Illinois judge has issued a temporary halt to Gov. Pat Quinn's plan to close several prisons and juvenile justice facilities.

The ruling came at the request of the state's largest employee union, which asked Alexander County Circuit Judge Charles Cavaness to block the closures. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees argued that the closures would put prison employees' safety at risk, citing already crowded conditions at prisons across the state.

The move follows last week's ruling by an arbitrator that Quinn violated the state's contract with the union by moving forward with the closures. The arbitrator ordered the state to return to the bargaining table.

Quinn wants to close the state's only supermaximum-security prison near Tamms in far southern Illinois, as well as the women's maximum-security prison in Dwight, in central Illinois. Two juvenile justice centers, in Joliet and Murphysboro, also are slated for closing, along with three transitional centers for inmates, including one on Chicago's West Side.

Quinn's office already had agreed to stop transferring prisoners out of those facilities because of the lawsuit. Most of the facilities were scheduled to close at the end of August, except for the youth center in Joliet, where the target date is Oct. 31.

Quinn spokeswoman Kelly Kraft said Tuesday that the governor's office remains "committed to our closure plans and are eager to resolve this matter as quickly as possible."

The state is "examining options" related to the lawsuit and an appeal of the arbitrator's ruling, Kraft said.

"We have empty, half-full, outdated and expensive facilities in Illinois that our taxpayers are funding," Kraft said in a statement. "It is disappointing that progress to make Illinois a better place and to put its financial house in order continues to be halted."

Quinn is spending the week in Charlotte, N.C., for the Democratic National Convention, where union bosses in attendance have noted the troubled relationship between the Democratic governor and workers who have historically been key supporters of Democrats.

Copyright © 2012, Chicago Tribune


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