Illinois House Declines To Act On Prison Cuts

Dec 6, 2012

Credit State of Illinois

Governor Pat Quinn is declaring victory after the Illinois House tacitly accepted his plan to close several Illinois prisons. Quinn has been working all year to close the adult prisons in Tamms and Dwight, and the youth prisons in Joliet and Murphysboro.

But he's been fought every step of the way: by union members who would lose their jobs or have to commute to other facilities, and by legislators who don't want to see the closure of major employers in their districts.

In the spring, lawmakers budgeted money to keep the prisons open despite Quinn's plan. Then, over the summer, Quinn vetoed $56 million from the state prison budget.

Last week, the Senate voted to restore funding. But the House passed up its chance to follow suit  by not taking action before leaving town at the end of veto session.

State Rep. Joe Lyons, a Democrat from Chicago, says there was a lot of lobbying going on.

"I must have had five, ten people on both sides of the issue talking to me about, 'Where was I going to be on that?' I said, 'I'm not really committed one way or the other, " Lyons said.

Ultimately, Lyons and the other members of the House did not have to commit.

Quinn says he would have continued trying to close the prisons anyway. Now all that stands in Quinn's way is a court case brought by union workers unhappy with the closures.