* 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.
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.