Illinois Public Media News
Over the past several months, repeated attempts to visit the Vandalia and Vienna Correctional Centers in Illinois have been denied by the state. Illinois' prison system is in crisis. It was built to house 34,000 people, but it is now crowded with 48,000 inmates.
The overcrowded prison crisis has been brewing for a long time, invisible behind cement walls and wire fences. Gov. Pat Quinn seems determined to keep it from public view.
Chicago Public Radio has requested visits to the two minimum security facilities in Vandalia and Vienna to see what taxpayers are getting for the billion dollars they spend each year on prisons. Gov. Quinn said no.
When Jerome Suggs was sentenced for driving on a revoked license he was sent to Vienna, located near the southernmost point in Illinois, about 350 miles from Chicago. Suggs was assigned to live on the third floor of a building but there was absolutely no view.
"When I moved up there (in Building 19), there was boards up on the windows and I was just looking like, 'Wow! What is this?" Suggs said.
Suggs said there was not a single window letting in light and that he was put in a large room with several hundred other men. All of the men were crowded onto bunks with nothing to do. There are 600 inmates in the building and only seven showers and seven toilets, and the toilets often broke and overflowed, resulting in a strong sewage smell.
"The smell that came from the showers and it came into the living quarters and yeah, I used to go to sleep with my pillow over my face, the smell was horrible, man," Suggs said.
A federal appeals court in Chicago has denied an appeal filed by imprisoned former Illinois Gov. George Ryan.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals released a 16-page ruling on Monday denying the 78-year-old Republican's appeal.
A ruling in his favor could have led to Ryan's release from a prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. It was widely seen as his last chance to get out of prison early.
Ryan is nearing the end of a 6 1/2-year sentence. He's due to be released in mid-2013.
The U.S. Supreme Court in April ordered the appeals court to revisit Ryan's arguments to overturn his conviction.
At an unrelated event Monday, Governor Pat Quinn said that the court has spoken and Ryan had his day in court. He says Ryan has to "do the time.
Northern Illinois University officials are investigating reports of an alleged secret bank account channeling thousands of dollars to several university workers.
NIU employees working at a campus physical plant allegedly sold scrap metal to a local company, which would write checks to an account known as the "coffee fund.'' University spokesman Paul Palian said the university's police department is looking into the matter:
"There is currently an investigation underway," Palian said. "It was launched Friday afternoon."
Electronic records show checks from the DeKalb Iron and Metal Company to the fund have totaled more than $13,000 dollars since 2005.
School officials say they have no record of such a fund.
A spokesperson for DeKalb Iron and Metal Company could not be reached.
Former Cook County commissioner Joseph Moreno and former Chicago Alderman Ambrosio Medrano are being charged for taking bribes.
Prosecutors say Moreno took a $5,000 bribe to insure development of a waste transfer station in Cicero while he sat on the town's economic development panel. They say he also used his position as a Cook County commissioner to get kickbacks for pushing Stroger Hospital to buy bandages from a particular company.
Ambrosio Medrano worked for Commissioner Moreno. He's also charged, but he was also a Chicago alderman who pleaded guilty in 1996 in another bribery scheme. Medrano is being held in jail because prosecutors say he's a flight risk. Judge Young Kim will hear more on that at a hearing on Tuesday.
The charges were unsealed Thursday afternoon in Chicago federal court. Medrano and Moreno were among seven defendants charged in the case.
Illinois Lawmakers Consider Expelling Derrick Smith
An Illinois House committee plans to meet in Chicago to discuss whether to expel state Rep. Derrick Smith.
Gov. Pat Quinn has signed a law that requires coaches and university employees to report cases of abuse.
Quinn's office says the law that goes into effect Wednesday is designed to help further protect children and young people from sex abuse and child abuse.
Illinois lawmakers introduced the measure in response to the sex abuse scandal involving former assistant Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky.
The law requires athletic personnel, university employees and early intervention providers to report suspected abuse.
Rep. Dwight Kay of Glen Carbon is one of the bill's sponsors, and he says the situation at Penn State made it clear that Illinois needed to tighten up its reporting laws to make sure nothing like that happens here.
Convicted former Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White is losing his law license.
The Indiana Supreme Court issued an order Wednesday suspending White's law license on an interim basis effective May 10th because of his convictions earlier this year on six felonies including vote fraud, perjury and theft. The charges stem from using his ex-wife's address as his voting address when he was serving on the Fishers Town Council and running for secretary of state in 2010.
White was sentenced Feb. 23 to one year of home detention. He has said he plans to appeal his convictions, which also cost him his elected office.
An email message seeking comment was sent to White.
(Reported by Pam Dempsey of CU-CitizenAccess)
The second property manager of the Cherry Orchard Village Apartments has been arrested. An extradition hearing is scheduled next week for Bernard Ramos, who was arrested in Washington D.C. by the Metropolitan Police Department on April 10.
A civil contempt warrant had been issued for Bernard, as well as his father, Eduardo Ramos, by a Champaign County judge. The two failed to appear to a schedule court hearing last year in connection with problems at Cherry Orchard. The property, which is located near Rantoul, was closed by health officials for a broken septic system.
Bernard refused extradition and was released on a $5,000 cash bond and is due back in a D.C. court Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Eduardo Ramos was in Champaign County Court on Thursday. At a hearing last month following his arrest in February, a Champaign County judge gave him permission to return to D.C. for medical care. Thursday's hearing was continued until June and Eduardo Ramos was again given permission to return to D.C.
Cherry Orchard typically houses migrant workers in the summer. It remains closed.
Champaign County State's Attorney Joel Fletcher said that the county continues to seek better security of the property. He said there is evidence of ongoing activity there.
In March, county health officials investigated reports of people living on the property and removing boards from windows off of one of the buildings. Health officials replaced the boards and posted a more permanent sign warning people away.
"Our main goal is that nobody lives in the property until the septic is fixed," said Julie Pryde, the administrator for the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.
Indicted Lawmaker Smith Fails to Show For Legislative Hearing
Indicted State Representative Derrick Smith was a no-show Thursday at a meeting of a special House committee investigating his conduct.
Illinois State students are on notice: campus police are about to get tough - on jaywalking.
The Pantagraph newspaper in Bloomington reports (http://bit.ly/IeVgz1) that more than 30 percent of the people who took a recent campus survey said jaywalking is a serious problem. And police are taking it seriously.
ISU Police Chief Aaron Woodruff says fliers warning students are being handed out this week. Next week jaywalkers will get tickets and have to pay fines.
In the same survey more than a quarter of the respondents said drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks are a big problem, as well. The chief says those drivers will be getting tickets, too.
Of the 1,500 traffic accidents in Normal in 2011, 17 involved pedestrians.
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