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Supremes allow Quinn to shutter facilities

Wednesday, Dec 12, 2012

* A big win for the governor

The Illinois Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered and end to legal action that has been blocking Gov. Pat Quinn from closing state prisons.

In a split decision, the high court directed that a lower court lift a preliminary injunction that had been granted to a state workers’ union trying to keep the prisons open.

Quinn’s office said the ruling means the governor may proceed with shuttering the facilities. The union, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, is still awaiting a judge’s ruling on whether an independent arbitrator was correct in finding Quinn had followed proper procedures with his shutdown plan. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the Supreme Court order trumps that.

Three of the seven justices dissented, arguing that the court was overstepping its bounds, ignoring key constitutional questions that the Quinn administration itself raised and taking the unusual step of determining that the arbitrator’s ruling was correct. That should be left up to a local judge to decide after the two sides’ arguments, they said.

The order and dissents are here.

* Background

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees had sued to prevent the closures, arguing they would worsen prison overcrowding and put employee’s lives in danger. AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall said the union was “extremely disappointed” by the ruling.

Slated for closure is the state’s only super max prison in Tamms in far southern Illinois, along with the Dwight Correctional Center for women in central Illinois and juvenile justice centers in Joliet and Murphysboro. Three transitional centers for inmates, including one on Chicago’s West Side, also will be closed.

Lawmakers had set aside enough money in the budget to keep the facilities open, but Quinn vetoed the money out, arguing it would be better spent in the state agency that oversees child welfare.

Senate lawmakers moved to override that veto when they met in Springfield late last month, but the House chose not to follow suit. So the governor’s veto was upheld.

* React from the governor’s office…

This is encouraging news for Illinois taxpayers, who will no longer be on the hook for spending millions of dollars we don’t have on empty or half-empty, unnecessary and very expensive facilities. Once fully implemented, these closures and consolidations will strengthen our long-term effort to cut state expenses, save taxpayers $100 million a year and help restore fiscal stability to Illinois.

* From AFSCME’s website

The Union will continue to pursue its lawsuit seeking to overturn the arbitrator’s decision which dismissed the Union’s claim that the closures presented a health and safety risk throughout the corrections system. That case is currently before Judge Cavaness in Alexander County.


…Adding… More from AFSCME…

AFSCME members are extremely disappointed in this ruling. The injunction is vital to upholding the union’s right to seek judicial review of an arbitrator’s findings on crucial health and safety concerns. Nonetheless, we intend to vigorously pursue that appeal. This ruling doesn’t change the fact that closing any prison will worsen severe overcrowding throughout the correctional system, making the remaining prisons more dangerous for employees, inmates and ultimately the public.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - anon - Wednesday, Dec 12, 12 @ 9:43 am:

    For the love of god, close these prisons already!!

  2. - Skeeter - Wednesday, Dec 12, 12 @ 9:43 am:

    Interesting result.

    One note about Kilbride’s dissent — typically where there is a TRO, the party seeking it must post a bond if the TRO may cause harm to the other side. Has the union posted a bond in the amount of wages and operating costs? It seems that in this case, the union would have every possible incentive to delay. The decision sure removes that incentive.

  3. - cassandra - Wednesday, Dec 12, 12 @ 9:51 am:

    It’s a start, but now the Quinn admin needs to develop and implement a broad policy to reduce the number of nonviolent offenders in Illinois prisons.

    John Tierney has an article in today’s NYT about mass incarceration in the US, which imprisons far more of its citizens than other countries. Among the numerous jaw-dropping statistics he provides: nationally, 1 in 40 children has parent in jail–1 in 15 black children. If accurate, this is a huge civil rights issue which has been largely ignored by politicians of both parties.

  4. - Small Town Liberal - Wednesday, Dec 12, 12 @ 9:57 am:

    Funny that when Quinn appeals a ruling it’s a huge waste of taxpayer money, but when AFSCME does it they’re just upholding their rights.

  5. - Lynn - Wednesday, Dec 12, 12 @ 10:06 am:

    What is the word about other facilities that Quinn wants to close like the Animal Lab in Centralia and the Crime Lab in Carbondale? I had heard that the state just spent $0.5 million on improvements at the crime lab, so why would they waste that taxpayer money by closing it?

  6. - LincolnLounger - Wednesday, Dec 12, 12 @ 10:11 am:

    For somebody who is anxious to close prisons and terrorize AFSCME, it seems he is under-cutting his effort by his administration’s foot-dragging on meritorious “good time”. I’m well aware of the previous problems, but implementation of such a program works well in other states and isn’t rocket science.

  7. - Loop Lady - Wednesday, Dec 12, 12 @ 10:15 am:

    Cassandra, Quinn has way bigger issues to deal with than the one you raised.
    Like him or not, Pat did the right thing.
    Prisons are not the kind of “economic development” the State needs to fund, especially if they are underutilized and inhumane. Consolidation of these institutions was the right thing to do, union issues aside…

  8. - Jay - Wednesday, Dec 12, 12 @ 10:18 am:

    Funny how theses prisons are “empty or half empty” according to Quinn yet the state pays thousands upon thousands to county jails to house state inmates esp Cook County, who are these “deals” benefitting?

  9. - horseracer - Wednesday, Dec 12, 12 @ 10:48 am:

    Jay - they are half empty. See BN-D coverage of Tamms and Murphysboro.

  10. - Jay - Wednesday, Dec 12, 12 @ 10:49 am:

    Loop Lady, I respect your point of view that prisons are not a kind of “economic development” I urge all citizens who are concerned with the “inhumane” treatment of inmates at Tamms C.C. to do some of their OWN research as to the types of “human beings” that are housed in the super max portion of the Tamms C.C., these inmates can not be around other people, they have proven that time and again.

  11. - Jay - Wednesday, Dec 12, 12 @ 10:53 am:

    Horseracer - I am not agreeing or dis-agreeing that they are not full what I am saying is that they are inmates all over the state that are housed at county jails that have been convicted and should be at state facilities, but instead of using the facilities the state has they are paying the counties to house these inmates, and paying well! Does anyone else wonder why?

  12. - Walk in my shoes - Wednesday, Dec 12, 12 @ 10:57 am:

    Governor Quinn nor his spokespeople will ever tell the truth when it comes to spending in Illinois. Why would a state close a juvenile prison in Joliet that had the highest population if youth on the day the announcement was made, is the least expensive juvenile facility to run and turn around and spend millions and millions of dollars to refit an older, underpopulated facility to house the most dangerous and violent youth in Illinois? If, as the Governor continues to say, it is about fiscal responsibility, why would one of the oldest and most expensive facility to operate be receiving such a facelift? The facility in question is a money pit that is going to continue to cost the taxpayers of Illinois millions upon millions of dollars more to operate on a yearly budget . Political pull trumps fiscal responsibility again!

  13. - State Worker - Wednesday, Dec 12, 12 @ 11:20 am:

    I hope the democrats in Alexander county are real proud of their support for Quinn.

  14. - Parentoforphan - Wednesday, Dec 12, 12 @ 12:04 pm:

    The governors plan to close State operated developmental centers fails to recognize that one size does not fit all. The abrupt closure and immediate eviction of individuals from facilities causes harm to some individuals. Read the story and see if this is what you want for your daughter.

  15. - Liberty First - Wednesday, Dec 12, 12 @ 12:41 pm:

    Quinn has to do something, they can’t short the pensions system anymore to pay the bills.

  16. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Dec 12, 12 @ 1:22 pm:

    ==The Union will continue to pursue its lawsuit seeking to overturn the arbitrator’s decision which dismissed the Union’s claim that the closures presented a health and safety risk throughout the corrections system. That case is currently before Judge Cavaness in Alexander County.==

    Exactly what part of SUPREME COURT does AFSCME not understand.

    It was ridiculous to beging with the AFSCME was able to stop the closures. AFSCME is NOT management. They, unfortunately, fail to recognize that and believe they get to control EVERYTHNG about the operation of state government. Finally, a court used common sense and put them in their place.

  17. - Sir Reel - Wednesday, Dec 12, 12 @ 1:41 pm:

    In terms of cost cutting, at least this decision strikes some balance with AFSCME’s win regarding the raises. The Governor has to have some authority to cut spending. If this causes unacceptable overcrowding, then AFSCME can fight that in court.

  18. - Rudy - Wednesday, Dec 12, 12 @ 2:43 pm:

    ==AFSCME is NOT management. They, unfortunately, fail to recognize that and believe they get to control EVERYTHNG about the operation of state government==

    Public employee unions have an inherent conflict of interest when it comes to making policy at their worksites. When their members’ best interest conflicts with the public interest, the unions have a fiduciary duty to do what’s best for their members. The taxpayers deserve to have their own elected officeholders appoint the persons who make the policy.

  19. - anon - Wednesday, Dec 12, 12 @ 3:03 pm:

    wow! so many comments prove the adage that if you say a lie enough it becomes the truth…Tamms (because it is a super-max) and Murphysboro (because Quinn emptied it out) are not full, but most other prisons are packed beyond capacity…It’s bad for Correctional Officers; it’s bad for the inmates; it’s bad policy…The inmates don’t get servicesw. Hell, I wonder how many folks are in prison because Quinn is closing the mental health centers. There needs to be a coherent, holistic approach. Making cuts just to make cuts—doesn’t make our streets safer or help the folks who need it.

  20. - SpringfieldNews - Wednesday, Dec 12, 12 @ 3:26 pm:

    It’s easy to deceive the public by saying they are half empty when they transfer everyone out to crowd other facilities and allow assault ice and problematic inmates to be housed at prisons where they shouldn’t be. I can easily say tear down my neighbor’s house, it’s empty while all along his wife, three kids and two dogs are living with me sleeping on my couch.

  21. - state worker - Wednesday, Dec 12, 12 @ 6:34 pm:

    None of the prisons being closed affect overcrowding. It’s absurd to say these prisons aren’t empty. They had so few youth in them that it was a no-brainer to consolidate. The youth system is 45% empty. Tamms supermax has been 1/2 empty for years. The women’s prison population is down and shrinking. AFSCME has done a great job convincing people that this is all a conspiracy. It’s a conspiracy alright — to do something sensible.

  22. - truthteller - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 12:46 am:

    Mark my words. Just as Quin botched the early release program, he will botch the consolidation of prisons. There will be blood, and it will be on Quinn’s hands

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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