Illinois prison closures put on hold
By Jayette Bolinski
SPRINGFIELD – State and union officials agreed today to postpone further transfer of inmates from prisons and other facilities slated for closure.
The decision is at least a temporary victory for the union representing the state’s correctional officers, who are opposed to Gov. Pat Quinn’s plan to close the facilities, including the Tamms “supermax” and Dwight prisons, and to consolidate inmates elsewhere.
Also slated for closure are adult transition centers in Carbondale, Chicago and Decatur, and youth centers in Joliet and Murphysboro.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 sued last week to stop the closures, saying the state’s prison system already is crowded and that the closures will put people’s safety at risk.
The union also sought a temporary restraining order to stop the state from transferring inmates in anticipation of the Aug. 31 deadline to close the prisons.
At a hearing in Cairo in far southern Illinois on Wednesday, a Circuit Court judge held off on ruling on the restraining-order request until Aug. 17, giving the two sides time to arbitrate the matter next week.
The state has asked the judge to dismiss AFSCME’s lawsuit.
Kelly Kraft, communications director for Quinn, said the state remains committed to its closure plans.
“We offered to properly hear AFSCME’s grievances on an expedited basis, and we now look forward to resolving this matter as quickly as possible through the arbitration process set out in the collective bargaining agreement,” she said.
Henry Bayer, executive director of AFSCME Council 31, said the union was pleased with the agreement to halt inmate transfers.
“…Gov. Quinn’s push to close these facilities has triggered rising violence among inmates and against employees,” he said. “The reprieve we won today is an important first step.”
Reporter Jayette Bolinski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.