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Prison Transfers Frozen, Quinn Keeps Reporters At Bay From Seeing Inside

By aaroncynic in News on Aug 14, 2012 5:20PM

Photo courtesy of Gov. Pat Quinn's Flickr pool.

In an effort to save Illinois a purported $100 million, Gov. Pat Quinn planned on closing five facilities across the state, including the Tamms supermax prison at the end of the month. ABC7 reports a judge in southern Illinois put a hold on the closures. While Quinn says shutting the cells for good at Tamms and others would are essential and would not endanger health or safety, AFSCME, the union representing correctional officers has stated that closures, which would mean transferring some of the most violent inmates to other facilities, would create more danger.

Bill Wilkey, mayor of Dwight, Ill., where Tamms is located, told ABC he doesn’t believe Quinn. “You know they say figures don’t lie but liars figure,” he said. AFSCME and others who feel they’re economically affected by shake ups in the Illinois prison system aren’t the only ones upset with Quinn.

On Friday last week, Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford called Quinn “out of touch,” when he once again denied journalists access to various state prisons to report on conditions. The State Journal Register reports Quinn denied both WBEZ and the Associated Press access to confirm reports of massive overcrowding, deplorable conditions, and several descriptions from former inmates which suggest various human rights violations. After a ribbon cutting ceremony at the State Fair, Quinn said that “prisons aren’t country clubs. They’re not there to be visited and looked at.”

As Rich Miller at Capitol Fax muses, when Quinn denies journalists a first-hand look inside even minimum security facilities, one has to ask “what’s he hiding?” Rutherford, who led prison tours during his time as a legislator said that though he concurs prisons aren’t “country clubs,” he believes:

“…it’s important that under the right conditions and right security escorts, that the media and policy makers have a chance to see the inside of the penitentiaries, ask the questions, dialogue with the staff and - for that matter - dialogue with the inmates.”

He added that Quinn’s closed door policy “gives the perception of hiding something, even if he’s not.”

Some conditions reported by WBEZ include:

  • Extreme overcrowding - the prison system in Illinois was built to house 34,000, but is currently closing in on housing almost 50,000. In one minimum security prison in Vienna, there were 7 showers and toilets for 600 inmates.
  • Filthy conditions - exposed pipes leaking fluid, rodent droppings, broken windows, cockroaches. In one case, a cockroach had to be removed from an inmate’s ear after it burrowed into him while he slept.
  • Human rights violations - A 2011 report by a prison watchdog organization called the John Howard Association confirmed inmates allegations in a class action lawsuit of inhumane conditions.