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Prison Path

Prison Overcrowding Continues



We have discussed the major problem of prison overcrowding in other articles this past year. Regarding overcrowding, there is no difference between jail vs. prison. Both types of facilities, suffer from this continuing troublesome problem. Overcrowding directly affects health issues and the extent of violence in a prison or jail. You put too many inmates in a small overheated room, you will have combustion and the spread of disease. You do not have to be a rocket scientist to reach that conclusion. It is also important to remember that a substantial number of inmates are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses. Overcrowding affects the chances of a nonviolent inmate in terms of– how to survive prison and how to survive jail unscathed.

The following article, by Kurt Erickson Lee – Springfield Bureau – is illustrative of this issue in Illinois.

SPRINGFIELD | A mass migration of some of Illinois’ most dangerous criminals is under way as state officials began shutting down the Tamms Correctional Center and other prison facilities.

More than two dozen inmates were being bused from the super-maximum-security prison in southern Illinois to the Pontiac Correctional Center Thursday with an aim on closing Tamms by Jan. 4, an Illinois Department of Corrections spokeswoman said.

Other facilities set to close next week include adult transitional centers in Decatur, Carbondale and Chicago.

The movement of prisoners comes in the wake of Wednesday’s decision by an Alexander County judge to lift an injunction that has barred Gov. Pat Quinn from closing prison facilities for months.

Although a lawsuit by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union will move forward, Associate Circuit Judge Charles Cavaness’ decision allows Quinn to begin closing facilities in an attempt to save an estimated $100 million annually.

The closure of Tamms and the eventual closing of the all-female prison in Dwight will have wide-ranging effects on a number of facilities because of overcrowding within the system.

Although details of the transfers are being kept closely guarded for security reasons, at least one bus load of inmates from Pinckneyville will be transferred to another prison in order to free up space for some Tamms inmates in the coming week.

While the youth prison in Murphysboro could close quickly — no youths have lived there since July — Dwight could remain open longer because those inmates will be transferred to Logan Correctional Center, which currently houses male inmates. Until room is found for the male prisoners, no women prisoners will be shipped south to Logan.

State Rep. Jason Barickman, a Champaign Republican who represents Dwight, said the governor’s push to close the facility has kept prison workers and members of the community on edge since it was announced in February.

“This has caused them great hardship, emotionally and otherwise,” Barickman said.

Although most observers are signaling that the lifting of the injunction means an end to the targeted facilities, Barickman said they could become bargaining chips in the ongoing contract talks between Quinn and AFSCME.

The closures have been heavily criticized because they will eliminate potential bed space in a prison system that is already severely overcrowded. Union officials are concerned that some of the Tamms inmates, who were sent to the facility because of violent outbursts, could be placed in medium-security prisons like Pinckneyville because of a shortfall in space.

“The governor seems to defy common sense and everybody else’s wisdom,” AFSCME Executive Director Henry Bayer said Thursday. “We just hope no one is going to be hurt in the process.”

Corrections spokeswoman Stacey Solano said safety is a key consideration as the closure process moves forward.

“The transfer of inmates and subsequent closure of these facilities will continue to be managed appropriately,” Solano said in an email Thursday. “IDOC will implement the closures in a thoughtful and responsible manner that prioritizes public safety and security while minimizing the impact on staff and inmates.”

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