* Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon was on WBEZ yesterday and was asked about Gov. Pat Quinn’s plan to close several state facilities. Simon said she was concerned about the plan to close the Tamms “super max” prison in far southern Illinois. Listen…
While Simon acknowledge that there were “humanitarian reasons” to close the facility, she said the state needed to look at the public safety angle, and she talked about jobs…
In particular, that’s an area where there are lot of good jobs in an area where there are few good jobs.
Once a southern Illinoisan, always a southern Illinoisan.
* Meanwhile, as we discussed the other day, the governor wants to cut $14.7 million from parole staffing lines, which is a 50 percent reduction. The AP analyzed all the numbers and concluded the cut would result in 148 parole-office jobs being eliminated. But the Department of Corrections refuses to confirm or deny that number and instead initially claimed that no layoffs would happen and that the budget book was in error. “It is not a reduction in parole headcount,” the department told the AP. “It is not the governor’s intention to reduce parole staff.”
Then, the explanation shifted. Corrections admitted that some field positions would be eliminated, then claimed that services would not be cut, then said that attrition would play a role in the reductions.
To the AP…
The changes would be part of a 9 percent cut to the $1.2 billion prison system Quinn proposes in the fiscal year that begins in July. He would close two maximum-security prisons and six “adult transition centers” which help inmates nearing completion of sentences get ready to re-enter communities.
But there are already far more inmates than there is bed space in the state’s prisons, so the 1,100 residents of those work-release centers would largely be released and fitted with electronic monitoring bracelets, increasing workloads for parole officers and, some fear, reducing opportunities for ex-offenders to get schooling or drug-abuse treatment. […]
In addition to six adult transition centers with space for more than 1,000, Quinn’s plan is to close a nearly new but underused supermaximum-security prison at Tamms and a women’s lockup at Dwight, sacrificing nearly 2,000 more beds.
That’s key because Corrections has said most transition-center residents would go home with electronic supervision, but AFSCME’s Lindall reports that parole officers estimate only about half of them would qualify, meaning 500 or more would have to return to prison to compete for already-precious space that would shrink with more closures.
* And make no mistake, the prisons are crowded. From John Howard Association executive director John Maki…
In recent visits to the Vandalia and Vienna correctional centers, for instance, the John Howard Association found inmates in conditions that rival California’s prisons. These facilities were so crowded that administrators had no choice but to house hundreds of minimum-security inmates in flooded basements and vermin-infested dormitories with broken windows, leaking pipes and dilapidated roofs.
* In other news, the closure dates for some facilities may not be hard and fast, according to Illinois Statehouse News…
The Illinois Department of Human Services has contracted with Derrick Dufresne and Michael Mayer, two senior partners in the developmental disabilities consulting firm Community Resource Alliance, to lead the transition of the Jacksonville center’s residents.
Dufresne and Mayer spearheaded a three-year project in North Carolina to move the state from institutional-centric developmental-disability care to a smaller, community-based care.
A 2010 report, written by the Center on Human Policy at Syracuse University after the North Carolina project ended, could foreshadow some of the problems the closure of Jacksonville.
“When organizational change happens too quickly without the creation of a strong foundation, there is a risk that the community supports will be created that are not truly individualized, that do not include adequate organizational and community support, and that do not offer increased control and choice to the individual,” the report said.
Neither Dufresne nor Mayer was available for comment.
Casey said community centers have “significant” waiting lists. The plan submitted by Mayer and Dufresne on February to DHS for closing the Jacksonville site echoes the lack of space in current community-based facilities.
“Among the numerous challenges faced in this process is … developing services and supports which will be necessary for long-term success and which do not currently exist in many locations,” the plan said.
Casey insists the governor’s budget allots enough money to help develop the community-based services needed to absorb people from the state centers.
Adding to the bottleneck is a proposal to have each of the residents’ individualized plans reviewed by Mayer and again by Casey before being approved, according to Illinois Department of Human Services’ documents.
The review is to ensure residents get placed in the proper environment, the documents said.
With all of these factors at play, Quinn’s office is now vacillating on the closure dates for eight state facilities, including Jacksonville, it originally set.
“All the closure dates for the rebalancing (of where developmentally disabled receive care) are approximate. It’s important to set a goal so that you’re working towards a target, but the safety and well-being of the residents absolutely comes first,” Brie Callahan, a spokeswoman for Quinn, said.
* IL may add fourth year of math to graduate high school
* DCFS faces questions in 2-year-old’s death - Agency had a chance to protect boy, and his mother is charged with murder
* Editorial: Budget bets shouldn’t be put on gambling
* VIDEO: Cultra on Dwight closure plan
* Treasurer: Illinois has no investment ties to Iran: The Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago played a key role in the passage of a 2007 Iran divestment law in Illinois. Jay Tcath of the group says the law required the state’s pension funds to divest from Iran, but there was no such obligation placed upon state funds managed by the treasurer’s office.