Pat Quinn Prison Closures: Illinois Governor's Downstate Closure Plan 'Final' Despite Lawmakers' Criticism

Governor's Prison Closure Plan 'Final' Despite Opposition

Democratic Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn on Tuesday announced that his decision to close two downstate prisons -- in Tamms and Dwight -- is "final," even as some state lawmakers rail against the plan.

Gov. Quinn announced the prison closures as part of his 2013 budget plan in February. The closing of the Tamms super-maximum security prison alone is estimated to save the state $21.6 million next year and $26.6 million each year after that.

Prison reform advocates have praised the plan, while some labor groups and local lawmakers have criticized the closures. The Tamms prison, in particular, was long criticized by prison reform groups for its treatment of prisoners. The facility was featured in a segment on NPR's "All Things Considered" Tuesday.

In addition to the facilities in Tamms and Dwight, juvenile detention centers in Joliet and Murphysboro are slated to close, along with three transitional centers statewide -- including one in Chicago.

The state General Assembly moved earlier this month to restore the funding needed to keep the facilities open, but the governor's office has stuck to their plan, which they say will save the state $62 million.

Kelly Kraft, a spokeswoman for the governor's office, said in a statement that the decision was "made after careful consideration and extensive deliberation with the Department of Corrections and the Department of Juvenile Justice," the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

"While we have heard many voices … the fact remains that the state can no longer afford these facilities if we truly want to address the state’s budget challenges that have been created over decades of fiscal mismanagement," Kraft's statement continued.

The governor's plan drew harsh criticism from several influential lawmakers, including State Treasurer Dan Rutherford, who said the closures could lead to further overcrowding posing "a real danger to employees and local communities," the Associated Press reports.

State Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg) said: "The governor says he's a jobs governor. I don't know if I can believe that anymore when he's cutting 500 jobs in southern Illinois," according to AP.

State Rep. Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro) -- yes, that Mike Bost -- added that Gov. Quinn "has made a clear decision that he wants to endanger the lives of the people who work in the prisons and the inmates," KFVS reports.

Henry Bayer, executive director of AFSCME Council 31, which represents workers at the facilities, previously criticized the closures at the correctional centers as "further devastating cuts to public services."

"Budget cuts have gone too far already, harming priorities like public safety and care for the most vulnerable," Bayer said in a statement.

Most of the prison closures are set to go into effect on Aug. 31.

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