* From the OEIG…
An OEIG investigation relating to the administration of Employee Benefit Funds (EBFs) at the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) was recently released. EBFs exist at all of the IDOC Correctional Centers and at its central administrative office in Springfield. Although EBFs serve a purpose in boosting employee morale, the EBFs at each facility operated independently, with little to no oversight, whether through audits, implementation of clear policies and procedures, training, or otherwise.
The investigation revealed that although IDOC’s Administrative Directives limited the primary source of the EBFs’ revenues to profits from vending machines and employee commissaries, most of the EBFs had expanded their revenue streams by generating large sums of money from fundraising. These expansive fundraising efforts, in turn, led to various problematic practices, such as soliciting donations from local businesses without ensuring that they were not State vendors, improperly holding raffles, selling merchandise in a way that evaded statutory and IDOC limitations, and devoting large amounts of State time to EBF activities. In addition, the investigation discovered that the EBFs spent much of the funds they raised on employee entertainment; in some cases they spent their funds in ways that benefitted only a select few employees. The EBFs also improperly used inmate labor for their fundraisers.
In response to the report, and at the direction of the prior and current gubernatorial administrations, IDOC undertook an extensive review and overhaul of EBF procedures. A senior IDOC employee was also suspended for 15 days. A copy of the report, In re: John Baldwin and Edwin Bowen (OEIG Case #17- 01266), is available on the OEIG website.
* From that report…
The investigation also revealed that many EBFs use inmate labor for fundraising events such as car washes and shoe shining events [contrary to state law.] […]
IDOC [Identifying Information Redacted] [IDOC Senior Staff Employee] told investigators that previously, the EBFs kept all profits from the fundraisers they held that used inmate labor, but 12 to 18 months ago there was a policy decision with IDOC Chief of Staff Edwin Bowen that required the EBFs to split the profits from such fundraisers equally with the Inmate Benefit Fund and the institution’s 523 fund. Nevertheless, [IDOC Senior Staff Employee 1] said he felt that using inmate labor to raise funds for the EBFs is “bad optics,” “bad ethically,” and “bad morally.” He added: “It’s really hard for me to just honestly stomach the idea that … employees benefit from offender labor.”
Sheesh. Using inmates for a shoe-shining event to pay for staff parties and gifts. That goes beyond “optics.” What is this, Mississippi?
*** UPDATE *** The governor’s office insists that doing things like using inmates to raise money is no longer happening under their watch. Gov. Rauner’s administration agreed to implement the OEIG’s recommendations.
An Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) employee has pleaded guilty to two of the charges against him.
Michael S. Williams, 52, of Auburn, was facing 25 counts of custodial sexual misconduct and eight counts of official misconduct.
Williams served as an IDOC Correctional Food Service Manager before he was charged in 2019.
Allegations first came to light in April 2019. He was arrested by Illinois State Police in September of 2019 at the Decatur Correctional Center.
* On to WICS…
In Illinois, 34 prisons are on lockdown because of COVID-19 outbreaks.
These lockdowns come just two weeks after the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) stopped taking inmates from county jails due to outbreaks.
This has impacted Sangamon County Jail.
The number of inmates Sangamon County Jail has to transfer to Department of Corrections has doubled in just two weeks.
* Capitol News Illinois…
In mid-January, 3,300 incarcerated people and nearly 1,100 staff members at Illinois prisons were infected with the disease. While hospitalizations have been rare during the latest wave, according to the state, one person in custody and two staff members have died.
With the pandemic fast approaching its third year, state prison officials are facing difficulties containing the virus once again because of the lagging vaccine rate of prison staff, the main conduit of COVID-19 into the prisons.
In August, Gov. JB Pritzker ordered all guards to be vaccinated, but their union protested the mandate and took it to arbitration. The governor prevailed in late December. Now, all prison workers must have their first shot by the end of January.
By the end of December, 65% of prison staff had been vaccinated, according to department officials who nevertheless remain confident that nearly all staff will meet the January deadline, citing markedly improving vaccination rates since the end of October, when only 49% were vaccinated.
But the slow rollout means very few of them — only 12% — have had booster shots, which are administered six months after the first round of vaccines but are crucial to warding off the omicron variant. By comparison, 44% of Illinois prisoners had received boosters by the end of the 2021.