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Department of Corrections attempts to intimidate reporter, workers

Monday, Jul 30, 2012

* Last month, it was the Department of Human Services threatening a reporter with prosecution. This month, it’s the Department of Corrections

A story last week identified some of the dangerous prisoners Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration is considering shipping out of the state when he closes the supermax prison in Tamms.

Information identifying those particular inmates came from within the prison. And, top brass at the Illinois Department of Corrections really don’t like whistleblowers.

For example, IDOC officials recently pursued two employees who had provided information to The Associated Press regarding the agency’s ill-fated early prisoner release program. The two whistleblowers retired before they could be purged by the secretive agency.

Hoping to tamp down last week’s news about outsourcing prisoners, Jerry Buscher, executive chief at IDOC, sent a letter to the Lee Springfield Bureau, suggesting that if the names of the inmates being considered for out-of-state placement were printed, guards and inmates could be in danger.

“If you proceed to disclose any information in your possession on this subject beyond yourself, the department will view your actions as attempting to promote disorder within the prison system,” Buscher wrote.

The union representing guards and other prison employees, however, had no problem with the publication of the inmates’ names.

Thankfully, the threats didn’t kill the story.

* AFSCME is also claiming intimidation at the prisons

Illinois authorities took the unusual step of searching guards and other prison employees for contraband as they left at least seven facilities last week, sparking worker allegations that the checks may have been reprisals for complaints about overcrowding and understaffing and inside information leaked to the news media, workers and union officials told The Associated Press. […]

The searches began just days after prison workers complained publicly in Springfield about prison conditions and followed a newspaper report about where some displaced Tamms inmates would go. That report was based on an internal Corrections document.

The employees’ union said such searches are rare and may constitute “retaliatory harassment,” which the Corrections agency denied. […]

Illinois Department of Corrections policy allows searches of employees at any time - beginning, during or ending a shift - to ensure they are not carrying banned materials, from magazines and cigarettes to illegal drugs and weapons.

But Kim Larson, an accountant at the Danville prison for 12 years, said she never received a pat down before when she left her 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift.

* Meanwhile, Gov. Pat Quinn has made some changes at DHS. From a press release

Governor Pat Quinn has announced the appointment of Michael McCotter as Special Investigator of the Office of the Inspector General of the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS). McCotter, a 40-year law enforcement veteran, will be charged with reforming the investigative operations of the Inspector General’s office. Governor Quinn also named Daniel Dyslin as Acting Inspector General for DHS until a permanent replacement is named. Today’s actions follow an executive order issued by the governor earlier this month to strengthen protections for adults with disabilities.

…Adding… Related…

* Quinn’s office claims $57M in savings

* AFSCME challenges transfers from JDC: Another 23 residents are expected to be moved out of the Jacksonville Developmental Center by Wednesday, including two who will be transferred to a community-based home where employees previously were found negligent by the inspector general for the Department of Human Resources.

* DHS ends contract with Chicago mental health center: Dr. Carl Bell, the center’s head and part-time professor of clinical psychology and public health at the University of Illinois at Chicago, blames the center’s fiscal problems on the state’s woes. He notes Illinois began slowing payments two years ago. He says as a result, the center he founded in 1975 has lost seven psychiatrists, in addition to therapists and case managers.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - western illinois - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 9:29 am:

    I stongly encourage Quinn and all these other govoners mayrs and so on to keep getting all law enforcement angry at them

  2. - Cindy Lou - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 9:31 am:

    I don’t have near the problem with the idea of searching workers as I do with Quinn and/or his agencies trying to intimidate reporters and squash legimate details of what is going.

    Workers know going into their employment that possible searches can take place…but if sole usage of search is too harass I’d think Governor Transparent has some explaining to do.

  3. - Michelle Flaherty - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 10:18 am:

    Here’s my question about Buscher’s theory that reporting the information will lead to unrest in the prisons:
    How will the inmates know?
    Is there some kind of worst-of-the-worst Tamms’ inmate subscription discount for The Southern?

  4. - soccermom - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 10:27 am:

    Mike McCotter is great. Smart move.

  5. - Fed up - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 10:28 am:

    Well on the bright side Quinn is trying to keep his administrations incompetence a secret. Interesting that Quinn’s people think they can intimidate reporters and jail guards. I wonder how often they have succeeded and killed stories or intimidated workers.

  6. - soccermom - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 10:53 am:

    Fed up — I assume that you are not trying to suggest that the Quinn Administration is killing intimidated workers…

  7. - Crime Fighter - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 10:58 am:

    Quinn’s inept and unethical administration is aggravated by the retaliatory actions it applies. From DOC to DCEO, Quinn has retaliated against whistle blowers and other employees who just want to do their jobs. As long as Lisa Madigan and the courts continue to enable Quinn’s unscrupulous functionaries, it will continue.

  8. - phil - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 11:02 am:

    This can get real messy. When a corrections staff starts to go south on their boss (in this case, the governor who is eliminating their jobs,) they can do a lot of p.r. damage. They’ll alert the media about every mishap…an inmate fight, a parolee getting locked up for a new crime, or a prisoner punching a guard…and the press will play each story like all hell is breaking loose — even though such occurences are relatively routine. And the staff could even engage in sabotage. Remember a few years back when some Cook County guards allowed a group of inmates to escape in the middle of a heated sheriff’s campaign?

    That’s not to say that the staff cuts and the Tamms closure don’t pose security threats to the system. They do. But you can count on a lot of exaggerations and half-truths getting turned in to headlines in the coming weeks. And the problem will be all the worse if the DOC decides to play hard ball and screw around with the media. The guv and his folks are playing with fire.

  9. - titan - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 11:11 am:

    @phil - I would assume that leaking stories of prinsoners being abused (by other prisoners) could generate a lot of adminsitration-unfriendly press too

  10. - transplant - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 11:15 am:

    Trying to muscle the press? Isn’t that a page out of the Blago playbook?

  11. - wordslinger - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 11:42 am:

    I imagine in a prison, even one on lockdown, the internal grapevine is a lot faster and more accurate than any newspaper report.

    Seriously, do these administration types really think Illinois reporters are going to be scared off by threats of prosecution?

    Let’s see — factor number of threats times actual prosecutions and you get zero credibility.

    The threat itself is a coveted badge of honor. Don’t these Einsteins understand that?

  12. - Debbie Reynolds - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 11:55 am:

    “You know, dear. Blagojevich is starting to look like the effective governor.”

  13. - bartelby - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 12:03 pm:

    AFSCME and the guards are trumpeting every discovery of contraband as a threat to their safety, and as proof that Tamms must be kept open. (It is of course patent non-sense that shivs in a minimum security prison can be attributed to plans to close a supermax holding just 165 men.) Are the pat downs an effort to catch the guards trying to plant weapons? AFSCME appears willing to do or say almost anything in order to protect a handful of jobs (most if not all will be preserved) and to maintain its recourse to vengeance.

  14. - state worker - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 12:07 pm:

    This story is bogus. AFSCME claims that these inmates are so dangerous and powerful that if they aren’t isolated, the whole system will return to the 1990s. Then they leak the names of the ones who might be transferred? If you believe their hype, then this is a security issue. The department never reveals transfers before they happen because people are not as secure, from outside attacks, while being driven in the back of a truck. AFSCME and reporters should respect IDOC security.

    Also, it reveals nothing at all that there are 9 men who might be transferred out of state. Happens all the time.

    At this point, my main concern is that the guards are so invested in this plan not working. It makes me nervous to see these lieutenants from every prison blame Tamms closure on everything. Are they serious?

  15. - look closely - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 12:12 pm:

    It has been clear for some time now that AFSCME is going all out to sabotage Gov. Quinn’s facilities closures. One tactic of theirs is to make an example out of a few particularly bad Tamms prisoners to portray what they see as the negative consequences of Tamms closing.

    Yet you won’t hear AFSCME talking about Andre Davis, who spent 14 years at Tamms and 32 in prison overall before being EXONERATED and released this month. You won’t hear about the horrific mutilation that Tamms inmates inflict on themselves as a result of 24/7 isolation and sensory deprivation at Tamms. The Quinn administration is right to close Tamms and should stick with that decision.

  16. - Dan Bureaucrat - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 12:31 pm:

    Back up for a second. In what universe is giving the press a list of ten prisoners who might be put on interstate compact considered whistle-blowing?

    Interstate compacts are a common tool for IDOC, and it isn’t even much in the way of news. Considering how paranoid everyone is about it, IDOC doesn’t need the security hassle of having everyone know where people with various gang affiliations are going.

    Would it also be whistle-blowing to reveal disciplinary records? Medical records? There is no end to what kind of information they can take from their jobs and give to reporters.

    AFSCME thinks if they just stir the pot up enough and create a panic, then they can keep Tamms. Reporters are eating it up. There is nothing like crime and prison sensationalism.

  17. - Newsclown - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 12:47 pm:

    I think the guards and employees should get a regular pat-down coming IN, because we know that’s how contraband is getting in. It’s not being hidden in birthday cakes, you know.

    Patting down on the way out makes much less sense since nothing comes out but maybe messages, and those would be too easy to conceal. So, the outbound pat-downs are serving some other function, like looking for usb drives or copied docs from the warden’s office, to suppress or find the stoolie in the warden’s office.

  18. - Bob - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 12:47 pm:

    If you read the Chicago news, the street gangs are out of control. The news is reporting all the gang leaders are locked up (Tamms) and they are going wild with no one to lead. Close Tamms, let the leaders take back over the prison system as they have before. They can then communicate and run the gangs on the street from prison. Then the killing and violence in Chicigo slows down. Quinn and Rahm are happy and have solved the street gang problem. One question I have is one news report last week, reported that several inmate gang leaders with latin names where being sent to a prison in Wisconsin. Why would you send a group of Gang leaders to one state. Something sounds fishy in Springfield.

  19. - Dan Bureaucrat - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 12:59 pm:

    Bob, The old gang structure has broken down in the the last 15 years, and there are not strong leaders anymore. In fact, both police and gangs attribute the increase in violence to the destabilization that has happened from the lack of gang structure. There is no hierarchical organization to create and negotiate a truce. Instead, there are young undisciplined kids leading factions. It is an unstable treacherous situation.

    In fact, many guys who have gotten out of Tamms now work for Ceasefire or other organizations to mentor youth or try to control this mess.

    There are only 3-5 guys in Tamms who were once gang leaders. And they were powerful in their 20s. They are now in their 50s and 60s, and many are not even known to the kids in prison or on the street. Most, or all, have renounced.

    Obviously gang activity on the streets of Chicago has gone on just fine with these guys in Tamms. It isn’t going to make a difference if they are in Tamms, Pontiac or Wisconsin.

  20. - Say it ain't so! - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 1:05 pm:

    These people were getting patted down at the end of their shift. Obviously, they are looking to see if any employees are sneaking out documents to leak to the press. Do they really think employees would be sneaking drugs and contraband OUT of the prison??

  21. - Amuzing Myself - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 1:13 pm:

    Did I read something wrong or is one of Quinn’s answers to fixing the OIG to put a former top-ranking legal advisor at DHS into the office of OIG? Couldn’t they have an interest in covering up the mess within their former agency?

  22. - state worker - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 1:18 pm:

    If AFSCME is concerned about the dangers of overcrowding, why dont they focus on relieving overcrowding at the source of the problem and push the timeline for restoring good time credits. Remember, some 70% of illinois inmates had non-violent offenses and 40% serve 6 months or less. We do not need all these people packed in prisons. And we certainly don’t want to be paying for it. (People with low level offenses are more likely to recidivate if they go to prison than if they get community supervision.)

    We got 3000 extra prisoners from taking meritorious good time away from these very people after having it in place for 30 years. So, let’s reduce overcrowding and make the system safe.

    There are only 170 guys at Tamms. This closure is not affecting overcrowding.

  23. - Just Me - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 2:30 pm:

    Dan it looks like from some of your statements you are an employee of the Department of corrections. But from my guess you have only heard the war stories from the old timers while you sat in your air conditioned office. Tamms wa

  24. - Just Me - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 2:42 pm:

    Dan Bureaucrat from your words and statements, my guess you are a administrator for IDOC. I would guess you are still wet behind your ears and have only heard how bad it was from the old timers! We have had administrator ’s cater to the gangs in the past. The gangs ran IDOC for years, it dosn’t work. Tamms was built and when the leaders and trouble makers could no longer run anything and where isolated from running anything on the street, they didnt want anything to do with Tamms. But when the administrator’s start catering to the gangs. Everything’s is going to be just like the stories you have heard. Sure as you stated they denounced thier gangs but why not, or be harrrased for being a gang member.

  25. - Dan Bureaucrat - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 2:54 pm:

    Just Me,
    I agree with you. You said it. Gangs ran the IDOC for years.

    That all stopped in 1996 when the Speck tapes came out and massive reforms were put in place like: gangs could no longer run the prisons, movement was controlled, shakedowns were implemented. They stopped gangs from making cell assignments, job assignments and managing our prisons. That is what changed our system. Not Tamms. Tamms was built later.

    It is time to let go of the past and to look at the evidence. Work on the real problems: overcrowding, chronic understaffing in most Illinois prisons, and stuffing our prisons with too many people who don’t need to be there. AFSCME has plenty of open jobs in the rest of the system. Fill them.

  26. - Moline - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 3:33 pm:

    All of the massive reforms of the 90′ s are being changed by Godinez and Buscher. The system is going back to gang control… Tamms or no Tamms. The governor needs better advice.

  27. - Dan Bureaucrat - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 4:02 pm:

    Please name a single “massive reform of the 90’s being changed by Godinez and Buscher.”

    Or is this a free-for-all make believe session?

  28. - justanordinarylawyer - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 5:10 pm:

    @Amusing myself, You are exactly on point regarding the appointment of Dyslin. He’s been part of the problem with OIG/DHS. He’s not the solution

  29. - Moline - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 5:29 pm:

    Closing Tamms!

  30. - SO IL M - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 6:33 pm:

    Actually the leak that they are trying to prevent is what is behind the pat downs of staff going out and not in. The leak of who is going to be transferred out of State is what they are using to try and kill a different leak of a story that is out there, and does relate to information being given to inmates about when and where they would be transfered to. And it wasnt Officers doing it.

    Rich, I would gladly e-mail you details on it, since it can not be posted here, if you are interested.

  31. - wordslinger - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 9:40 pm:

    –The system is going back to gang control…–

    Who runs the gangs in Illinois (notice I did not say “Chicago”; there is plenty of illegal drug-dealing all over the state.)

    Who runs the meth and weed out of southern and central Illinois?

    Who runs the heroin and crack in Decatur, Springfield, East St. Louis, Rock Island, Rockford, etc?

    Are the same folks running heroin and crack on the South and West sides the same as those running it in Aurora, Waukegan, Addison, Calumet City, etc?

    The fact is, they’re all breaking down into cells, like the terrorists they are, to keep it harder to bust anyone at the top.

    Go after the money and the guns. You need both of those to run a drug business, more than leaders.

  32. - 4_nubbs - Tuesday, Jul 31, 12 @ 8:18 am:

    Guards planting shanks? Then why would they be patted down when leaving the facility?

  33. - Concerned - Tuesday, Jul 31, 12 @ 8:11 pm:

    Shake down on the way out? Are staff stealing Paper clips? I know this state is broke, but REALLY?

  34. - tomaosman - Wednesday, Aug 1, 12 @ 5:41 pm:

    There is no need for prison workers to invent stories. It is a shame that some of you would insinuate that. There shouldn’t be weapons in prison. There shouldn’t be marijuana in prisons. These stories are newsworthy. They aren’t being sensationalized. The fact that you think they have been tells me these events are important. Yes closing tamms will affect all of idoc. Would you like another example of changes implemented by this administration? I’ve heard buscher and director godinez say seg is being reduced. Take away all deterrents and see if you don’t slide back to the days of speck. Did anyone notice I didn’t hide behind a pretend name like the state worker.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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