In our opinion, Quinn repeatedly shows that he is a hypocrite who is unconcerned about the physical welfare of his constituents despite his constant rhetoric to the contrary. Governor Quinn already, single-handedly, since he entered office has caused IL prison inmates and their families to suffer the most severe hardships in decades by first taking away early release options, and causing severe overcrowding in state prisons during a time of short-staffing and deteriorating facility maintenance. State prisoners are enduring cockroaches, mice, sweltering heat, more and more frequent lockdowns, property confiscations, and reduced rations, but Quinn apparently does not want anyone to know about this or raise their voices to criticize the dire conditions! Nor, does he seem to want to move quickly to reduce the overcrowding and improve prison conditions. Now he is using misdirection to cite security concerns as justification for attempting to impose a news black-out to restrict public access to prison facilities in order to stop the public from finding out any more facts about just how bad state prisons are right now. Quinn claims to be a “democratic” governor promoting governmental “transparency”, but barring the press from the prisons and threatening IDOC staff whistle-blowers with legal prosecution and /or intimidation is nothing short of authoritarian “Big Brother” tactics and reveals just how resentful and insecure he is of criticism, no matter how justified it may be!
Gov. Quinn says journalists no longer allowed inside prisons
SPRINGFIELD — For years, journalists have been granted limited access to periodically tour Illinois prisons, but Gov. Pat Quinn Friday decreed the state’s lockups are off-limits to the media.
“I think that’s a fundamental policy that we will always follow,” Quinn said, citing unspecified security concerns voiced by top prison officials.
The governor, who often touts his administration as “transparent,” issued his decision in the wake of reports by WBEZ radio in Chicago that its reporters had been turned down numerous times in their attempts to confirm allegations of horrendous living conditions at the overcrowded, minimum-security facilities in Vienna and Vandalia.
The Associated Press also reported Friday that the administration declined an Aug. 1 request to visit Pontiac’s segregation unit, where dangerous inmates will be housed when high-security Tamms prison closes Aug. 31.
“We’re not going to have tours of Illinois prisons. I don’t believe in that,” Quinn said. “Security comes first. It isn’t a country club. I think prisons are there to incarcerate criminals. They are not there to be visited and looked at.”
The decision comes as the Illinois Department of Corrections is attempting to house more than 48,000 inmates in a system built to handle about 33,000 prisoners. The John Howard Association, a Chicago-based prison watchdog organization, has documented that prisoners are living in squalid conditions at Vienna and Vandalia.
Along with prisoners being packed into basements, common areas and gymnasiums not originally built to house prisoners, the organization found inmates dealing with infestations of mold, cockroaches and other vermin.
In July, a group of inmates at Vienna filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to improve the conditions.
While WBEZ reporters wanted a firsthand look at the situation, Quinn said top prison brass believe tours by reporters make prisons less safe for inmates and prison workers.
“I think it’s important that we listen to those who are on the front lines of the prison,” the governor said.
The policy switch comes after years of the prisons being occasionally opened for media tours.
In 1997, for example, more than 80 people — including 25 state lawmakers and members of the press — were given tours of the maximum-security Pontiac Correctional Center and the all-female Dwight Correctional Center.
In 2005, then-state Sen. Dan Rutherford, R-Chenoa, led a contingent of lawmakers and reporters on a similar tour of the facilities, giving the public a close-up look at how the facilities were operating.
In a statement issued Friday, Rutherford, now the state treasurer, said he was disappointed by the decision.
“For the governor to deny such access to a prison, and say we should just trust his administration with running state prisons is uncalled for and out of touch,” Rutherford said. “State prisons are taxpayer funded and may be posing safety threats not just to prison staffers and inmates, but also to communities.”
The move to limit access to facilities apparently began earlier this year when state Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, was barred from entering the Murphysboro youth prison in his district. He later was allowed entry after news reports highlighted the incident.
Luechtefeld said the new policy is likely more of a way to avoid bad publicity than a safety issue.
“It’s probably a lot about politics,” Luechtefeld said Friday.
The Quinn administration also is cracking down on prison employees talking with the news media. State police investigators were at Tamms Correctional Center last week, reportedly probing the leak of information obtained by the Lee Enterprises Springfield Bureau regarding a plan to ship some dangerous inmates to out-of-state prisons if Quinn gets his way and closes the state’s lone “supermax” facility.
A top prison official also sent a letter to the Lee bureau suggesting that if the names of the inmates being considered for out-of-state placement were printed, guards and inmates could be in danger.
“If you proceed to disclose any information in your possession on this subject beyond yourself, the department will view your actions as attempting to promote disorder within the prison system,” wrote Jerry Buscher, executive chief of the Illinois Department of Corrections.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, which represents prison employees, slammed Quinn for the decision.
“Instead of making prisons more crowded and dangerous, and silencing employees and journalists who blow the whistle, the governor should truly listen to what’s best for public safety and those who serve. Like legislators, prison employees are telling him to rescind his closures, layoffs and reckless inmate transfers at once,” the union said in a statement.