Originally Posted Online: Aug. 08, 2012, 11:09 pm
Last Updated: Aug. 08, 2012, 11:29 pm
IDOC, union discuss closure fears
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By Stephen Elliott, email@example.com
Representatives of the Illinois Department of Corrections and the union representing guards at East Moline Correctional Center on Monday discussed staffing and prison population issues.
"It's a step in the right direction," said Gregg Johnson, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 4, which represents prison workers.
He said the department representatives, a deputy director and the chief of security, plan to meet with union representatives again later in the month.
The correctional officers contend that the closing of a pair of prisons and the resulting population increases at remaining institutions are creating dangerous conditions, especially given the declining number of guards
Mr. Johnson said there are 136 correctional officers at EMCC, the lowest ever, and around 1,300 inmates. the most ever. According to the IDOC website, the operational capacity is 1,268.
Stacey Solano, corrections spokesperson, said EMCC may be getting additional inmates as Gov. Quinn's plans to close the prison are carried out.
"While the facility may be getting additional inmates as a result of the closures, it currently has more beds than inmates and will be able to accommodate the increase," she said via email. "The inmate population throughout the system remains at a level that can be safely managed."
Slated for closure are prisons in Tamms and Dwight; adult transition centers in Carbondale, Chicago and Decatur; and youth centers in Joliet and Murphysboro. The facility closures were to be completed Aug. 31. Gov. Quinn said Illinois cannot afford all of the prison facilities that are open, arguing that Tamms, in particular, is only half full and costly to operate.
AFSCME argues that closing facilities and consolidating inmates will add undue pressure on an already crowded and understaffed system. Violence will increase, and lives are at stake, the union argues.
Ms. Solano said Tuesday that there are approximately 90 inmates at EMCC who will parole before Aug. 31, "which will help offset the number of inmates being transferred into the facility."
"The department will continue to implement the closures responsibly, and in a way that prioritizes public safety and security," Ms. Solano said.
Mr. Johnson said although it's good to have a dialogue with the IDOC, "we've had these discussions before and promises were made and not kept. We plan on the governor keeping his word, which he hasn't done in the past couple of years.
"We've never reached the staffing numbers we were supposed to reach."
In a related matter, the state on Wednesday agreed to halt all inmate transfers related to Gov. Quinn's push to close prisons. According to AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall, the freeze on transfers will remain in place at least through the next scheduled court proceeding on Aug. 17.
He said AFSCME sued to enjoin the state from implementing the closure of targeted facilities, arguing that closing them and transferring inmates to already overcrowded prisons without adequate safeguards poses a grave risk to the personal safety of prison workers.
Records reviewed by The Associated Press show 29 Tamms inmates have been moved since Thursday.