The state’s most dangerous prisoners may soon be leaving their current cellblocks. It’s part of Gov. Pat Quinn‘s plan to close certain state facilities.
Quinn will close two state prisons and a pair of juvenile detention centers, even though the legislature included funding in the budget to keep them open. That’s according to Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg. He says he received a letter from the governor’s office about its plans to move forward with closures.
Phelps represents Alexander County in the southwest corner of Illinois, where Tamms super max prison is located. He says it will be economically devastating for his district:
"It looks like to me that the governor has totally turned his back on people downstate and the working men and women that this is going to affect," he said. "This is uncalled for it's very disappointing after you know all the time that we in both chambers and both sides of the aisle have gotten this money into the budget, this is real money to keep those facilities open."
Tamms was built to house the state’s most violent inmates, but it has drawn criticism for human rights violations. Phelps helped arrange to include money in the budget so Tamms could be converted to a medium security facility.
Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford, who represented southern LaSalle County as a Republican state Senator, issued a statement opposing Quinn's plans:
“Closing prisons will only exacerbate the overcrowding we face in Illinois with our prison population," he said. "Overcrowded prisons pose a real danger to employees and local communities ... As a state senator, I proposed legislation that would have put into place long-range strategic planning on certain facility closures ...
"I would like a plan for each major facility, whether it is a unit in corrections, mental health, developmental services or veterans affairs. .”
The memo Phelps received says a final decision also has been made to close the state prison in Dwight and juvenile detention facilities in Murphysboro and Joliet, as well as centers in Decatur, Chicago and southern Illinois that help inmates transition out of prison.
Phelps says he'll fight against Quinn's plan. But state law leaves it to the governor to decide whether to close state facilities. Quinn also is moving forward to close state institutions for the developmentally disabled and mentally ill but has indefinitely postponed closing inmate transition centers in Peoria and Fox Valley.