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Prison closures could cause hundreds of jobs to leave the Central Illinois

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(The Center Square) – “Save Logan Correctional Center” signs are popping up on front lawns in Lincoln as legislators raise concerns about a plan to close and demolish the facility in Logan County.

The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability held a hearing in Springfield Friday. The topic that the bipartisan group of state legislators reviewed is the proposed closures of Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill and Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln.

Illinois Department of Corrections Acting Director Latoya Hughes said the plan is to close Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln and relocate it in Crest Hill, where two modern facilities will be erected. About 500 employees in Lincoln would have to transfer.

“The department estimates that if staffing patterns stay consistent with current trends, there will be approximately 850 positions available in our other department facilities within a 90 mile radius of Logan Correctional Center,” said Hughes.

COGFA member state Sen. Sally Turner, R-Beason, questioned whether IDOC and the Illinois Capital Development Board had done their due diligence in balancing the best options. She suggested building the new facility closer to Lincoln or just rehabilitating the Logan Correctional Center.

IDOC officials said the reason they want to move Logan Correctional Center out of Lincoln is because the Will County and Cook County areas have more rehabilitation programs available for inmates and that will ultimately improve the recidivism rate.

“The folks that work at Logan Correctional Center, they have jobs and homes and we can’t expect them to drive 70 miles at $4 a gallon for gas to go and work somewhere else,” said Turner.

Along with demolishing Logan Correctional Center, IDOC plans to demolish Stateville Correctional Center and rebuild a new, modern prison in that same area. The employees at Stateville will have to transfer, temporarily, while CDB plans and executes the construction of the new facility. Hughes said most Stateville employees will be offered jobs at the Northern Reception and Classification Center, which sits on the same property as the current Stateville prison.

“In addition to the Northern Reception and Classification Center, there are three correctional facilities within 65 miles of the Stateville Correctional Center. The department estimates about 1,000 IDOC positions should be available within 65 miles of the Stateville Correctional Center,” said Hughes.

State Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer, R-Murrayville, pointed out it’s likely the CDB won’t follow through on the demolition of Logan Correctional Center, despite the department confirming that their funding request includes the demolition.

“They’ve got the Lincoln Development Center that was closed and it is still sitting there and the state has done nothing with it,” said Davidsmeyer. “As we are looking at this [rebuild and demolition project] we’re still neglecting the things we have been neglecting for decades and telling these communities we won’t do that to them. While we’re looking at big projects like this, maybe the state should look at cleaning up other areas as well.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 includes $900 million to demolish and rebuild the correctional centers and the administration estimates the construction costs at $805 million to $935 million.

American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Council 31 Deputy Director Mike Newman argued IDOC’s proposal to close both prisons is in violation of the State Facilities Closure Act.

“The department simply states that the closure will not significantly disrupt programming [at Stateville],” said Newman. “But the proposal provides no additional explanation on how it will ensure the incarcerated individuals at Stateville will have access to the same educational and vocational opportunities that are available now.”

According to the IDOC’s website, Stateville Correctional Center offers more classes and programming than any other facility in Illinois.

“The department is simply asking the commission for pre-approval well in advance of whenever the department comes up with an actual plan sometime within the next five years. The department’s so-called recommendation states that it is only considering moving Logan Correctional Center from its current location and that no final decision has been made,” said Newman. “What exactly is the commission being asked to approve?”

Newman told COGFA that Logan Correctional Center has about 500 employees who need to transfer, and the department suggested employees could go to Decatur Correctional Center or Lincoln Correctional Center, but there are only 54 job vacancies between both of those facilities.

Every indicator shows that the state’s prisons are becoming increasingly more dangerous for employees and the incarcerated, Newman said, and that relocating individuals in custody will only exacerbate the problems within the state’s prisons.

Newman also said there’s a problem transferring inmates to Decatur because that is a minimum-security, dormitory-style facility and most of the medium-security females at Logan cannot be safely transferred there.

As far as the economic impact to Lincoln if Logan Correctional Center is relocated to Stateville, Newman said there are hundreds of indirect jobs that will be lost.

COGFA, which can only make recommendations about such plans, is scheduling additional meetings about the proposed closures.