Quinn Plowing Forward to Close Tamms, Dwight, & Other State Facilities!

Posted: June 21, 2012 by mikethemouth in IDOC, IL in Fiscal Ruins, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

As we anticipated, Quinn is not listening to the input of others when it comes to his plan to trim state government in IL. Despite widespread pain and outrage, it looks like Quinn is moving forward to close as many of the 59 state facilities he early this year announced plans to close as he can get away with closing. Quinn seems to be trying for a quick and sizable reduction in state government while he can get it without much opposition.

Perhaps Quinn is trying to flex some muscle having received widespread acknowledgement for his apparent willingness to tackle tough financial issues such as Medicaid and pension reform during the recent legislative session. Many remarked the appearance of a “new Quinn” in his taking a leadership role in working to resolve the state fiscal crisis. Now, Quinn appears to be going full steam ahead on his own.

Quinn first played coy by raising hopes that he would avoid closing correctional facilities and possibly turn Tamms super-maximum security lockup into a lower-security prison in order to alleviate prison overcrowding and reduce costs:

Finke: Quinn coy on facility closings-PJStar article

Tamms likely won’t remain a super-max-WBEZ.org

Yesterday and today Quinn made it plain that he has no plans for Tamms except closure. Via simple memo to state facilities yesterday, Quinn showed his disregard for any half-measures and the concerns of many state legislators as well as the recommendations of the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA). Quinn simply notified state staff that that he will proceed with the closure of not only Tamms prison, but also the women’s prison at Dwight, the Murphysboro Youth Center, and the Westside and the Southern Illinois Adult Transitional Centers, by August 31, 2012.

Quinn confirms Decatur facility to close with state prisons – Herald-Review article

Illinois Gov. Quinn moving ahead with Tamms prison closing and others-stltoday.com

The Peoria and Chicago Crossroads Adult Transitional Centers are spared the axe for now.

Reaction from the unions and state legislators who just sent Quinn a state budget with sufficient funding to avoid the closures of these facilities was quick and furious, particularly from downstate legislators who feel Quinn’s actions are particularly harmful to their constituents:

State Facilities to Close-WSILtv.com

Quinn Announces Prison Closures In Memo-WUISNews.wordpress.com

Unions and lawmakers push back on facility closures-Illinois Issues Blog

Quinn closing prisons against lawmakers’ wishes-Pantagraph.com

“…if the governor wants to show he is serious about getting the state to live within its means, he should focus on all of the waste and mismanagement that occurs in Springfield and Chicago on a daily basis before handing out pink slips to all the employees at Tamms,” Rep. Brandon Phelps, a Democrat from Harrisburg, said in a written statement…”

Approximately 720 state employees will be affected with some having a chance to move to other positions. As Kurt Erickson, a reporter who covers correctional issues in-depth reports, IDOC is going to have to expend a lot of manpower first in order to get every inmate moved appropriately before the state will begin to realize any savings the Quinn administration claims the facility closures will produce:

Dwight closure to trigger musical chairs for inmates-Pantagraph.com

Quinn’s office apparently only decided that it needed to explain more clearly why it is going ahead with these facility closures after a posturing attack by IL Treasurer Dan Rutherford:

Treasurer Dan Rutherford sent out a press release…

“I do not agree with Governor Quinn’s apparent final decision to close seven state correctional facilities and youth centers in the near future. Closing prisons will only exacerbate the overcrowding we face in Illinois with our prison population. Overcrowded prisons pose a real danger to employees and local communities. I took a similar stand back in 2008 when the previous governor abruptly suggested closing multiple state facilities without a comprehensive plan. As a state senator, I proposed legislation that would have put into place long-range strategic planning on certain facility closures. I am again calling on the state to implement business principles by having strategic long-range plans for its major state facility assets.”

Quinn’s budget office response to Rutherford today:

The Department of Juvenile Justice has a declining population of youth which means the state no longer needs eight state detention facilities. We have chosen which facilities to close based on the needs of our youth. In the case of Murphysboro, there is another IYC facility nearby in Harrisburg. Also, the facility has the capacity for 256 youth and currently houses less than 20.

In the case of Joliet, the physical plant does not provide the rehabilitative environment that our youth need. A more rehabilitative model of juvenile justice where youth are served and supported in the community instead of being incarcerated has been shown to result both in safer communities and better outcomes for our youth.

Tamms is only half full and very costly to operate with an average inmate cost of more than three times any other prison in the state. Approximately $64,800 compared to $21,405. The security level at Tamms for high level offenders can be safely replicated at other existing facilities. Closed Maximum security inmates will be transferred to Pontiac Correctional Center and Menard Correctional Center. These facilities will be able to supply the level of security needed for these inmates without compromising safety for staff or inmates. Tamms minimum security inmates will be relocated appropriately throughout other facilities around the state.

Dwight is located within 22 miles of Pontiac Correctional Center, 45 miles from Stateville Correctional Center, and 45 miles from Sheridan Correctional Center. Dwight houses women, and the female prison population is trending down. Between 2005 and 2011 IDOC female prison admissions decreased 41%.

Overall, these closures will allow the state to better live within our means and address the state’s most pressing needs.-capitolfax.com

_____________________________________________________________________
Commenters are already pointing out a few criticisms of Quinn’s justifications above for closing these state facilities pointing out:

the prisons listed around Dwight house MALE, not FEMALE inmates, so even if women inmates numbers are reduced. Dwight inmates still have to be moved about 90 miles away to Logan, and this one;

– Use Common Sense – Wednesday, Jun 20, 12 @ 9:39 am:

If Governor Quinn was doing what was right for Illinois he would have chosen facilities that were old and in need of repairs. Take IYC St. Charles and IYC Pere Marquette as examples. They are in need of a lot of repairs. Plus, if you are doing right by the youth ask them where they would rather be housed. Most probably would say Murphysboro cause it is a newer facility and nice. He can’t say he is doing this to save money cause if that were true he would keep newer facilities open and close old ones. Plus the IYC in Chicago is not even owned by the State. They pay rent on that facility just to run it, over a million a year. Nothing gets said about that. All politics. All about where you live in the state. Has nothing to do with saving money. If you believe that, you are just as bad as Quinn.-Capitolfaxblog

It will be interesting (but unlikely) to see if anyone is able to change Quinn’s mind before August 31st concerning these closures. If Quinn is pushing ahead to close facilities where funding was allocated then there is little doubt that he will also move ahead to close down the rest of the state agency facilities he has threatened to close. Initial responses to his actions are disbelief and the speculation that Quinn is up to his old tactic of threatening closures as a ploy to gain leverage in other negotiations with state legislators. In this case, speculation is rampant that since Quinn did not get legislators to give him all that he wants in state pension reforms, that he will only halt these closures if legislator leaders are able to agree with him on pension changes this summer, before the fall legislative session starts and confusion reigns. Perhaps these facility closures are just pawns in the process to Quinn, but if so, employing an old strategy of pressure again is likely to cost Quinn the good will he won for legislators in the Spring session. As many are now pointing out these closure facilities will end up hurting Quinn and the democrats too. The facility closures target Southern Illinois counties directly, including the poorer ones where it counts. Voters in those counties will not forgive Quinn or the democrats if the closures occur.

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Comments
  1. Darlene Wieser says:

    What is happening at Vandalia ? When will they begin releasing prisioners in connection with the new “good time” guide llines ?

    Like

  2. I have addressed waste in government several times in my blog. Check out “Penny Wise and Dollar Foolish” here:

    http://paulmodrowski.blogspot.com/

    Other posts address the inhumane conditions inside Illinois prisons such as feeding prisoners for less than $1 a day, lack of medical care especially for those who are dying, and layoffs of medical personnel.

    Like

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