The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Gov. Quinn Moving Forward With Prison Closures

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jun 20, 2012 4:30PM

Gov. Pat Quinn is sticking to a budget plan he first proposed in February and said he's made a "final determination" on closing down a host of state prisons and juvenile detention facilities, including the Tamms Correctional Center, Southern Illinois Adult Transition Center in Carbondale, the Dwight Correctional Center and the Illinois Youth Center in Murphysboro.

The Illinois General Assembly allocated money in the state budget to operate the facilities but Quinn said the closures will save the state nearly $62 million. Kelly Kraft, a spokeswoman for the governor’s Office of Management and Budget, said the decision was a matter of fiscal necessity.

“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,” she said in a prepared statement.

The supermax Tamms prison is the most notable of the closures. Opened during former Gov. Jim Edgar's administration, Tamms has come under significant scrutiny for its isolation practices. Originally built to serve as one-year "shock treatment" for violent criminals, close to 100 of its inmates have been incarcerated there for 10 years. Prisoners are kept in small cement rooms for 23 hours a day with no group activity, no phone calls, no education or rehabilitation programs and no interaction with others.

The decision to close Tamms has drawn criticism from Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford (a potential GOP gubernatorial candidate) and State Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg), in whose district Tamms falls.

“I am disappointed and shocked by the governor’s out-of-touch efforts to close the Tamms Correctional Center, one of the few facilities in the state that deal with the most disruptive, violent and problematic offenders,” Phelps said.

Inmate at Tamms and Dwight, which houses female inmates, will be disbursed to other prisons in Illinois. The planned closures are set for Aug. 31, while the youth centers are slated to close Oct. 31. Quinn's announcement sets the stage for an emotional fall session in Springfield. even though they set aside the money to operate the prisons, House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie said the decision ultimately fell to Quinn. While many lawmakers opposed Quinn's decision based on the already overcrowded state prison system and the loss of jobs, others acknowledged facilities like Tamms and Dwight are antiquated and have outlived their usefulness.