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Women inmates helped decorate the governor’s mansion for the holidays

Tuesday, Dec 10, 2019

* Brenden Moore at the SJ-R on the renovations of and other upgrades to the governor’s mansion

The mansion, which had fallen into disrepair after years of deferred maintenance and neglect, reopened to the public in July 2018 after a $15 million renovation, which was led by former first lady Diana Rauner.

M.K. Pritzker said she was grateful to Rauner for doing “an amazing job renovating the Governor’s Mansion.” […]

To get the mansion ready for the holiday season, Mrs. Pritzker worked with the Illinois Department of Corrections to give women inmates the opportunity to put their skills to use. This included helping assemble floral arrangements displayed in vases around the mansion and the gingerbread village.

“What they’ve produced here is as good as anywhere I’ve seen in the United States and all of the women that helped should be very proud of their work and so should their families,” Mrs. Pritzker said. “I think it’s just incredible and I’m just so very proud of them.”

- Posted by Rich Miller        

40 Comments
  1. - Unacceptable - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 10:18 am:

    Bet he didn’t pay them 15$/hr.


  2. - JSS - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 10:23 am:

    I saw one of the DOC vans parked outside the Governor’s Mansion a few weeks ago. Given the history of Illinois Governors, the snarky thoughts flowed freely, but good to see Mrs. Pritzker praising the inmates.


  3. - depressed in politics - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 10:25 am:

    years ago I attended a holiday party at the Missouri Governor’s mansion. At the party, the candy striped vested servers were all Missouri inmates from the nearby prison. It seemed both odd and uplifting. The use of “prison labor” seemed negative but the opportunity to be mainstreamed and exposed to the hoi polloi seemed very positive to me. I’m sure the opportunity to be out of the institution and contributing was welcomed.


  4. - Dee4Three - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 10:33 am:

    Female “inmates” decorating the Big House is pretty cringey.


  5. - Evanstonian - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 10:36 am:

    Yeesh… I really, really hope this “opportunity” was paid and not, you know, coerced labor.


  6. - fs - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 10:43 am:

    == to give women inmates the opportunity to put their skills to use==

    Are they implying that men wouldn’t have similar skills? That women are best suited for decorating and working around the house? If it was just to give women prisoners work opportunity, they could’ve left out or rephrased that line.


  7. - DuPage Saint - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 10:46 am:

    I really don’t think this is equivalent to a Georgia chain gang
    I think it was an extremely nice gesture and would hope to see more of it. Strange things do happen but I doubt this was coerced and I bet the inmates were pleased to be able to do it. For the change of scenery if nothing else


  8. - Just Observing - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 10:49 am:

    === Yeesh… I really, really hope this “opportunity” was paid and not, you know, coerced labor. ===

    I’m guessing that the inmates volunteer and need to earn the privilege. I’m quite sure plenty of inmates would welcome the opportunity to get out the prison and hang out in the Gov’s mansion doing decorating, and I’m sure the DOC and the Gov’s office don’t want/need prisoners that are there against their will causing problems.


  9. - A Guy - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 10:50 am:

    ==Are they implying that men wouldn’t have similar skills? ==

    Might be “implying” that women are less of a security risk. OR since the First Lady is in fact a woman, she wanted to do something specifically for women.

    And as out of fashion as it might be to suggest, I think it might still hold true that women have a tendency in greater numbers to be both more interested and more skillful at decorating. (I’m ducking)

    Want to send over a few to my place they can with one little caveat; they come back a week after Christmas to undecorate.


  10. - YSW - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 10:52 am:

    The 13th amendment in action folks.


  11. - City Zen - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 10:56 am:

    I like this idea. There should be more opportunities for inmates to contribute to society outside prison walls.


  12. - Illinoised - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 10:59 am:

    The floral arrangements and gingerbread village were nice, and a placard lauded the inmates for their skills. Nice touch. And my wife and I enjoyed meeting the Governor and Mrs. Pritzker.


  13. - Shemp - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 11:01 am:

    Does construction on a gingerbread village trigger prevailing wage? Somewhere there’s an unhappy labor rep.


  14. - Guys and Dolls - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 11:03 am:

    I’m with A Guy. Little doubt in my mind that the average guy prisoner has fashion sense more in line with me and the average woman more in line my wife.

    Nevertheless, it’s fun to see the Pritzker family succumb to this stereotype. One of the privileges of being a liberal Democrat is that you don’t have to apologize as often for these types of politically incorrect moves.


  15. - YSW - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 11:04 am:

    Labor without just compensation is not a nice gesture and not a privilege. It is exploitative, no matter how warm and fuzzy a package it is wrapped in.


  16. - golface18 - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 11:06 am:

    From what i can tell, the inmates are at the mansion all summer long. Men are there mowing and picking up tree lims and such three days a week. The women are there 2 days a week tending to the flower gardens and such. These are inmates getting close to being released.
    Now, i have noticed that the women are there for the first time this year, i had never seen that before.


  17. - Twirling Towards Freedom - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 11:08 am:

    This may be a work crew that’s out doing work on public property on a regular basis. That day their assignment happened to be decorating the governor’s mansion. They do get paid, but it’s very little. They are not forced to work on a crew, but they also don’t get to choose their assignments.

    Or maybe this was a special project inmates had to volunteer especially for. DOC could answer for sure. I’d be careful using inmate labor in the Governor’s residence. It can be a bad look, and governors in other states have taken heat for it.


  18. - Love Irony - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 11:09 am:

    Love the irony of JB’s Chief if staff complaining about the golden Globes being to white meanwhile she and her boss and the First Lady our there exploiting inmate labor. Whole bunch of phonies over there.


  19. - Donnie Elgin - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 11:10 am:

    WAND has a few details ..

    “Women from the Decatur Correctional Center helped with floral arrangements found in vases around the mansion and on the fireplace garland. Women in the Logan Correctional Center’s Baking Apprenticeship Program put together a gingerbread village, which will also be on display”


  20. - Love Irony - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 11:11 am:

    The living wage those workers are owed is probably next to JB’s tax payments, too.


  21. - Santaslittlereindeer - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 11:13 am:

    I think some folks are over thinking this one. Also, I run by the Mansion most every week day morning, and most days male inmates are working on the grounds. I always figured they were doing good work and doing it in a pretty nice place.


  22. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 11:13 am:

    ==exploiting inmate labor==

    I guarantee you those inmantes enjoyed every bit of it and didn’t feel exploited at all. Anything that gets them out of those prison walls is welcome.


  23. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 11:14 am:

    I’m a little torn here.

    The image in my head, which isn’t necessarily honest to it all has inmates counting off, getting the van, arriving, counting off again…

    They’re still decorating, but… only having that “privilege” because they are incarcerated.

    I’ll leave it there.


  24. - Montrose - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 11:16 am:

    Yeah. This one just doesn’t sit right with me. Maybe if there was some context that showed folks did request this opportunity or it tied to skill building that would help them when they are done with prison. I don’t know. I think I would much rather that the story was the first lady hired a fledgling decorating business owned by a woman of color.


  25. - Donnie Elgin - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 11:21 am:

    If this story bother you due to perceived exploitation of inmates. I suggest you order lunch at a MOD Pizza restaurant. They actively seek out ex-offenders, turns out that these folks are exceptionally loyal employees. They have 25 plus location from Waukegan to New Lennox.

    https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/317779


  26. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 11:25 am:

    I think some of you have really missed the boat on this topic. Would you rather these inmates feel some sense of self-worth or that they spend their time behind the prison walls twiddling their thumbs? Inmates in Illinois do work all over the place. They do landscaping work. They make furniture. Let it go. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this scenario.


  27. - Shemp - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 11:29 am:

    On a serious note, this doesn’t bother me either. I am guessing there were volunteers for this. Like someone else said, I am betting people participating in this are just happy to break the monotony and do something that creates some value. Should we be paying inmates $15 an hour to work the chow hall in the prison too? I think reality escapes people when feelings kick in.


  28. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 11:30 am:

    === I think some of you have really missed the boat on this topic.===

    I know i said i was torn, and for me, what is the difference is while the Mansion is a state building, it’s also the home of the governor, and while the state as a whole gets to enjoy the work, done by inmates, inmates made the home of the governor a little nicer for the holidays all the same.


  29. - A Guy - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 11:34 am:

    ==I guarantee you those inmantes enjoyed every bit of it and didn’t feel exploited at all. Anything that gets them out of those prison walls is welcome.==

    I’m pretty certain they also received the very low prison wage they would receive no matter where they were working. I’m pretty sure being out of a prison environment is a huge benefit all on it’s own, even if it’s a few hours or a few days.
    If not this labor, who would we the taxpayers be paying and how much? Let it go folks, it’s Christmas. It is not lost on me that the Pritzkers are of another faith and still acknowledging and celebrating the Christian holiday along with their faith holiday. MK and I aren’t simpatico on most issues, but she has a tremendous amount of class and taste. I’m sure the place looks great and the female prisoners (ladies) were treated very well there.


  30. - Pete Mitchell - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 11:45 am:

    Yes. The inmates are very upset that they are earning time off their sentence and time outside the facility. Nice catered lunches too. Oh the humanity!


  31. - zatoichi - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 11:59 am:

    The prison close to me always has inmate crews working in the community for all types of local projects. The crews will tell you they asked to go cause it is a nice break from prison, but also a positive for their record. The crews I have been around all did a great job.


  32. - Quibbler - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 12:21 pm:

    Get back to me when he pays them minimum wage for their labor, pardons them, and lets them go. If there’s no risk to having them work in the governor’s mansion, there’s no risk to society either.


  33. - Quibbler - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 12:22 pm:

    == Anything that gets them out of those prison walls is welcome.==

    This is 100% true, but I’m not sure you grasped the full implication.


  34. - Pundent - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 12:32 pm:

    =Labor without just compensation is not a nice gesture and not a privilege. It is exploitative, no matter how warm and fuzzy a package it is wrapped in.=

    So for example volunteering?


  35. - btowntruthfromforgottonia - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 1:23 pm:

    I was working at the Mansion while that crew was decorating.
    They were nice,polite to people,and seemed happy to be there.
    There was also a crew of 2-3 inmates there almost daily assisting with groundskeeping.


  36. - Skeptic - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 1:42 pm:

    =Labor without just compensation is not a nice gesture and not a privilege. It is exploitative, no matter how warm and fuzzy a package it is wrapped in.= I’ll bet that there are a whole bunch of church ladies that will disagree with you.


  37. - crazybleedingheart - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 2:03 pm:

    “I really don’t think this is equivalent to a Georgia chain gang”

    field vs. house

    deja vu


  38. - R A T - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 2:08 pm:

    YSW, you could not be more wrong. Besides you say the 13th which even states except as punishment for a crime.

    To the story, I am glad the female prisoners got to help as I have seen the men at the mansion (and the fairgrounds) doing work as a reward and I can see how it positively effects them. City Zen said it best.


  39. - Just Observing - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 2:36 pm:

    === Get back to me when he pays them minimum wage for their labor, pardons them, and lets them go. If there’s no risk to having them work in the governor’s mansion, there’s no risk to society either. ===

    1. There surely are at least a couple guards there with them. So, it’s not apples to apples in terms of them being fully free, without supervision outside the prison walls.

    2. There may not be a societal risk in terms of violence, but there could still be risk. Maybe the inmate stole $300,000 from a client by cooking the books?

    3. Your argument is that only those that may, presumably violently, harm society should be imprisoned, and that deterrence and justice should not be taken into consideration. It’s a fair argument to make, but it’s just not where our justice system is at this point.


  40. - Thomas Paine - Tuesday, Dec 10, 19 @ 4:09 pm:

    If all the problems and challenges at IDOC facing Gov Pritzker, this does not even make the Top 25.

    Grinches.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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