* Round One goes to AFSCME…
State and union officials agreed Wednesday to postpone further transfer of inmates from prisons and other facilities slated for closure.
The decision is at least a temporary victory for the union representing the state’s correctional officers, who are opposed to Gov. Pat Quinn’s plan to close the facilities, including the Tamms “supermax” and Dwight prisons, and to consolidate inmates elsewhere.
* It helped, of course, that the union filed its lawsuit in Alexander County, one of the poorest counties in Illinois and home to the Tamms super max prison. You don’t have to possess a great imagination to figure out what went on behind closed doors yesterday…
Wednesday’s agreement came after about an hour of closed-door meetings between the state, AFSCME and First Judicial Circuit Judge Charles C. Cavaness on the day the union’s request for a temporary restraining order to halt closure-related transfers was to be heard. Inmate transfers not related to the closures can continue. […]
Quinn budget spokeswoman Kelly Kraft said the state remained committed to closures, and it agreed to interrupt the process because of an Aug. 17 court date in Alexander County at which time the sides will update Cavaness and the court on arbitration progress.
“We offered to properly hear AFSCME’s grievances on an expedited basis, and we now look forward to resolving this matter as quickly as possible through the arbitration process set out in the Collective Bargaining Agreement,” Kraft said in an email.
AFSCME has until Aug. 17 to respond to the state’s motion to dismiss the union’s lawsuit. The state has an Aug. 20 deadline to respond to the union’s arguments against dismissal.
* Judge Cavaness also dismissed a motion to intervene filed by the Uptown People’s Law Center, which represents 7 Tamms inmates. The group and the inmates wanted the AFSCME suit tossed. From the group’s Facebook page…
“The conditions to which these men at Tamms are subjected are deplorable. Long-term isolated solitary confinement ruins prisoners psychologically and makes it more difficult for these men to re-integrate into society once they are released. There is empirical evidence that supermax prisons, such as Tamms, do not affect the level of violence within a prison system. On the contrary, once Mississippi reduced their supermax population there was a dramatic reduction in prison misconduct and violence.”
That dismissal wasn’t a good sign for the state’s case, either.
AFSCME has sued the state before over prison closings. The union launched three separate lawsuits against the state back in 2008 as a response to Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s planned closure of the Pontiac maximum-security prison.
Then, as now, the union accused the state of compromising employee and public safety. “Pontiac is an essential part of a safe prison system, and without it, all Illinois prisons, staff, inmates are at greater risk of violence and personal harms,” AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Henry Bayer said in 2008, according to the Peoria Journal-Star.
As the Blagojevich administration fell apart, the governor was impeached in January 2009, the Pontiac closing plan also unraveled. In March 2009, Quinn, who had been governor for all of two months, said Pontiac would stay open. Ironically, the governor gave greater fiscal responsibility as the reason, noting that the prison provides 600 jobs and $54.4 million in revenue for the Pontiac area.
The inmate advocacy group Tamms Year Ten will host a protest beginning noon today at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employee Council 31 headquarters in Chicago.
Entitled “Reject Torture, Stop the Lies and Remember the Real Story at Tamms,” the protest is a reaction to what Tamms Year Ten described as weeks of AFSCME “scare tactics” used against Gov. Pat Quinn’s planned Aug. 31 closure of the Tamms Correctional Center in Alexander County. Family members of inmates and human rights advocates will attend the protest.