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State: Closing prisons means 1,500 inmates packed into gymnasiums

Wednesday, Sep 28, 2011

* The Department of Corrections has filed its required report (click here) with the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability on its proposed facility closure plan. Gov. Pat Quinn, you will undoubtedly recall, wants to close the Logan Correctional Facility. It’s pretty grim

Closing the Logan Correctional Center eventually will force Illinois’ jam-packed prison system to house 1,500 inmates in prison gymnasiums around the state, the Department of Corrections said in recently filed documents.

Also, up to 180 inmates from the medium-security prison at Lincoln would be transferred to the super-maximum-security prison in Tamms. […]

“I’ve read closure documents before, but none so outrageous and irresponsible as the Logan prison plan,” said AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall. […]

The Corrections document said 1,980 inmates are housed at Logan. It said 300-350 inmates will be moved to health care units and segregation units at other prisons. The move will use up nearly all of the state’s beds in health and segregation units, the department said. […]

In the document, Corrections said that “while IDOC is prepared to face the challenges of providing mandated services in a less than ideal situation, an increased risk of legal exposure is an evident possibility. To assist in confronting these challenges, IDOC will be required to increase employee headcount at the facilities that will receive the additional inmate population.”

The problem for IDOC is that the prison system is at historic capacity right now. There’s literally no place to put these people.

* And then there’s the ripple effect of closing facilities throughout Downstate

At a time when Gov. Pat Quinn is pushing to lower the unemployment rate and boost investment in Illinois, the Chicago Democrat’s plan to shutter seven facilities as part of his budget fight with lawmakers will cost the state more than 2,600 jobs, according to figures compiled Tuesday.

Economic impact surveys show the governor’s proposal to shut down a prison, mental health centers and other state facilities in downstate communities like Lincoln, Murphysboro, Chester and Dixon will essentially strip $295.8 million out of the Illinois economy.

The surveys, conducted for the General Assembly’s Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, show that laying off 1,924 employees at the facilities will have a ripple effect on local businesses, resulting in an additional 738 people losing private sector jobs.

In Logan County, for example, laying off 356 people from the medium-security Logan Correctional Center will result in the loss of 104 other jobs in the area, causing a net $73 million blow to the local economy, the survey noted. Retail sales, hotels and restaurants are among the hardest hit sectors. Similar loss projections are outlined in reports dealing with the other facilities.

* Illinois Statehouse News has done a good job compiling all the data. From its story

Closing the Singer Mental Health Center would require local community care providers in Rockford to care for the 845 people usually treated at Singer.

But state Rep. Patti Bellock, R-Hinsdale, said that may not happen.

“I am extremely concerned that this will send people to hospitals or out (on) the street. A lot of these community providers do have group homes, but there is not enough room,” Bellock said. […]

The mental health center at Tinley Park is one of the state’s busiest, handling nearly 1,900 people a year. Those people would be sent to community care providers and local hospitals.

Bellock said community care providers in Cook County are overwhelmed and she fears the worst if a plan to transition people out of Tinley Park slowly is not available.

“For a local community to step up and pay for this kind of care, that would be impossible,” said Bellock.

* And AFSCME sent out a press release yesterday condemning COGFA for moving too fast…

The largest union representing frontline state employees is calling for greater openness and public accountability by a panel of lawmakers charged with overseeing Governor Pat Quinn’s proposal to close three psychiatric hospitals, two centers for individuals with profound developmental disabilities, a prison and a juvenile detention center.

In a letter to the senators and representatives that serve on the Commission for Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA), American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31 executive director Henry Bayer wrote:

    “[T]he Administration is intent on implementing these closures as quickly as possible with as little public scrutiny as possible. Unfortunately, it appears that COGFA is prepared to collaborate in this effort to stifle public review and input rather than seeking to provide an independent review based on the broadest possible public examination of the facts—as is the clear intent of the law.”

Specifically, the AFSCME letter cited the scheduled Wednesday, Oct. 5, public hearing on the Singer Mental Health Center in Rockford, which was announced with little more than a week’s notice, and the commission’s stated refusal to conduct the legally mandated review of the proposed closure of Tinley Park Mental Health Center. […]

“We realize that it may not be COGFA’s intent to depress turnout or stifle participation at these public hearings, but that will certainly be the result if the hearings go forward as currently planned,” Bayer wrote.

* Related…

* Study: Closing Chester Mental Health Center would cost $45 million to economy

* State-run facility shutdowns will leave nearly 2,000 people jobless

* UIC report slams Hartgrove - Findings detail violence, sex assaults of young patients at Chicago psychiatric hospital

* Editorial: Illinoisans will back those who put govt. on track

* Simon tour shines light on colleges - Lieutenant governor visiting all 48 community colleges in state

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Bluefish - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 10:18 am:

    Perhaps it is time for our state to wake up and stop packing the prisons with those unlucky enough to get busted for minor drug offenses.

  2. - amalia - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 10:25 am:

    thompson closed a bunch of juvy prisons in the 80s to create adult space. meant juvys who should have been kept in had no chance to get the kept in services. worse for the system. bad kids often grow to be bad adults. crowding not good for anyone, prisoners or guards. we need space for offenders who commit crimes against people.

  3. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 10:31 am:

    What Bluefish said.

  4. - dupage dan - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 10:32 am:

    How can we regular folk know if this is all “sky is falling” stuff or not? Clearly, by closing facilities there will be loss of services in those areas. However, when Zeller MHC was closed there were dire predictions that we have not seen come to pass. On the other hand, we were told that the overflow from local hospitals would be sent to, you guessed it, Singer MHC. Tinley Park MHC has been “slated” to close for years, get on with it already. This is reminiscent of what happens whenever the Cook County Board announces cutbacks/closures/layoffs. We are then bombarded with studies, union laments, etc that all show that the end of the world cometh if the cuts go thru. Anybody else feel the catastrophe fatigue?

  5. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 10:53 am:

    Grim’s the word. They may not happen, but the proposed closures should at least serve as food-for-thought for the knee-jerk cut-spending crowd.

    As far as locking up folks for drug offenses, well, the War on Drugs just keeps getting weirder.

    Don’t look now, but the profits from illegal drugs have created a lawless zone in the northern states of Mexico that’s a bigger threat to U.S. citizens than any Taliban in Afghanistan.

    At the same time we covet and fight illegal drugs, the CDC reports that prescription drug abuse now kills more Americans than car accidents.

  6. - shore - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 11:01 am:

    You find out which republicans are really with the lets cut agenda when it means changes in their own backyards.

  7. - What to do - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 11:21 am:

    Those complaining need to offer up better areas to cut. I don’t really think these cuts will be made but they have to start somewhere to eliminate the billions of dollars the state owes. Otherwise, it will be much more painful when the &%!* hits the fan with the creditors.

  8. - dupage dan - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 11:26 am:

    Yeah, they should find “better areas to cut”. Just where do you think that will be?

    Really, any cuts that are proposed will have a constituency ready to promise dire consequences if their program is cut/ended. So, forget the cuts and raise the taxes! All for one and one for all! Let me hear ya!!!

  9. - AC - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 11:33 am:

    The problem with making a threat that has disastrous consequences, is that you have to be willing to follow through with that threat. Quinn seems like too nice of a guy to be banking on destructive tactics of busting union contracts and driving the state off a cliff if he doesn’t get his way, but here we are. If he follows through with this madness, it isn’t just labor unrest he needs to worry about. A deadly prison riot, resulting from too many people janned in an uncontrolled space with too few staff is a very real possibility. People in this state could end up hating Quinn more than Blago. They won’t remember his efforts to try, using the craziest methods possible, his efforts to get additional appropriations from the legislature. They will remember what went wrong after he held the state hostage. It’s not like he is going to have tea party members rush to support him, even though his slash and burn approach to running the state should get their support. I know what I will remember, an ineffective governor who could have worked with the legislature a little more to avoid a disaster.

  10. - Reality Check - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 11:46 am:

    Dupage Dan and anyone else who doubts that cuts and closures have a human cost should read Phil Kadner’s column from yesterday. Here’s an excerpt and link:

    Michael Yanul died last week, and I can’t help but think we killed him.

    That’s “we” as in the people of Cook County.

    For a half-penny on every dollar spent at a store, he might still be alive.

    Yanul, 58, a victim of muscular dystrophy, lived at Oak Forest Hospital for 17 years. He couldn’t move, eat or even breathe on his own.

    About three weeks ago, he was forced to move to a nursing home because Cook County, which owned and operated Oak Forest Hospital, decided it could no longer afford to keep the hospital open.

    I first wrote about Yanul in January, as Cook County was preparing to close the hospital, and he and other long-term patients were literally fighting for their lives.

    “All the talk about closing this hospital down has been about money,” Yanul told me. “But there’s a human cost to closing this hospital. Nobody talks about that.”

    He was convinced that without the 24-hour nursing care provided by a hospital, he would likely die.

  11. - QRBNST - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 11:50 am:

    No place to put them…didn’t we just sell an EMPTY prison to the Feds?

  12. - steve schnorf - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 11:57 am:

    See, the problem isn’t “no place to put them”, it’s “no money to pay for a place to put them.” We don’t like some of these cuts (I don’t, anyway), but exactly where do we think PQ is going to cut another billion and a half (or more) over the next couple of years that we will like?

  13. - QRBNST - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 12:20 pm:

    The state’s public universities could certainly do with a bit of administrative reform.

    Do we really need a separate board of trustees for every school?

    In California, where they have arguably the best public university systems in the country, they have only 2 boards - one for the UCal system and one for the CalState system.

    The public universities in Illinois are always complaining about cuts in state funding, but a huge problem in Illinois has been the lack of any agenda for higher education and the best way for our public universities to provide it.

  14. - Newsclown - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 12:40 pm:

    Interesting trivia tidbit: which state entity provides the highest volume of services for mental health, cares for the most patients with mental problems?

    IDOC. By a wide margin.

  15. - vole - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 12:43 pm:

    Many if not most of the prison employees from Lincoln will be offered transfers to other prisons. Since most of the cost of running this facility is from salaries the cost savings would not be that great.

    From what we hear about pay raises and hirings at other agencies and departments I have to ask just what control Quinn and his staff have over the workings of state government? What happened to his pledge to eliminate all non essential spending? Quinn just ain’t managing. And the managers ain’t all on the team, the taxpayers’ team that is.

  16. - yinn - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 1:16 pm:

    Rep. Bellock is correct. There would not be enough room in Rockford group homes for all the people from Singer, and increasing capacity to accommodate them would be very difficult because a) many people who reside at Singer are there due to needing more support than what can currently be provided in community settings and b) the state has been starving these providers for years. People would get shoved all over the state into slots that don’t fit and there would be many casualties.

  17. - What to do - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 1:25 pm:

    Since someone asked my opnion, I would start like someone else noted with looking at releasing non violent drug offenders early. Second, chop at the largest program expenditures by %age. Also, what about all these other states that have balanced books? It obviously can be done but will be painful for some.

  18. - dupage dan - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 1:42 pm:

    Reality Check,

    Your story proves my point.

    Every program has stories such as the one you linked us to. Every program has a constituency that will rise up to protest any cuts to their program.

    That means there can be no cuts in any programs.

    That means our government, which is all of us, is up s#!t creek without ANY means of propulsion.

    Now what?

  19. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 2:15 pm:

    What to do:

    Name me a state as large and complex as Illinois that has balanced books. Last time I checked there were only a few with balanced budgets and they included places like North Dakota. Second, PQ is cropping at the places with the largest % of expenditures (except Medicaid). Look at the budget and you will see Corrections and DHS right up there at the top.

  20. - dupage dan - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 2:58 pm:


    Were you cut off or something? Your post started with “What to do:” but then provided nothing by way of a plan, other than to state that Illinois is large and complex. What gives?

  21. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 9:20 pm:

    dupage dan:

    Was that question rhetorical? I was responding to What to do@1:25

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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