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Rauner Announces Closing Of Horrible, Panopticon-Style Prison Stateville F House

By Rachel Cromidas in News on Oct 14, 2016 9:17PM

Stateville Prison, via Wikimedia Commons

Illinois is closing the last panopticon-style, circular prison in the United States, Gov. Bruce Rauner announced Friday in a Sun-Times op-ed.

The Stateville F House prison for adult men was built in Will County 1922 in the style of the panopticon, a concept created in the late 18th century by the philosopher Jeremy Bentham. Bentham theorized that the building design would allow single watchman, sitting in its circular center, to give the prison's inmates the sense that they were all being watched at once. In practice, Stateville F House was costly, labor-intensive to staff, and presented operation hazards for employees and inmates alike, according to Rauner.

In these budget-strapped times, plus the increased calls for prison reform in Illinois and around the country, Rauner makes the case for finally closing Stateville F House, which he says is the last remaining roundhouse panopticon prison in the U.S. and would require over $10.3 million in deferred maintenance costs to keep running. In the '90s it was called one of the "wildest and most violent" prisons in the country, and was known to be rife with gang activity.

Rauner also announced that the state will repurpose the Murphysboro Illinois Youth Center as a Life Skills and Re-Entry Facility for inmates transitioning out of the criminal justice system.

By closing F House and repurposing Murphysboro, Illinois is taking another important step to reform our criminal justice system. Our administration will continue working with members of the legislature, the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority and other stakeholders so that we can continue to make meaningful progress on these reforms to accomplish our goal of improving outcomes and dramatically reducing Illinois’ prison population.