AFSCME Continues Court Fight in Prison Closures
By Jeff Bossert
Despite an announcement from Governor Pat Quinn, and a state Supreme Court ruling, Illinois’ prison workers union says nothing is finalized on the closure of correctional facilities.
AFSCME Council 31 Regional Director Ed Caumiant does confirm that some prisoners are being transferred from the Logan Correctional Center.
They’re expected to make room for women inmates to be transferred to Logan from the Dwight Correctional Center.
Caumiant notes the Illinois Supreme Court only ruled against the injunction to keep the prisons open, and did not address the concerns in the union’s lawsuit about safety and health in state correctional facilities.
Gov. Quinn recently said two prisons, some juvenile facilities, and several adult transition centers (including one in Decatur), would be closing ‘in a matter of weeks’, and the Tamms Correctional Center closed late last month.
But Caumiant said AFSCME hasn’t received a firm closure date from the Department of Corrections for Dwight.
“In the face of that confusion, we’ve asked, we’ve tried to get within the several within the department to get a definite plan from them" he said. "I was promised a call back from their operations chief. And as of (Thursday), I still haven’t heard anything.”
Caumiant said closing the Dwight facility has to be at least a couple months away, given safety standards.
Despite the fact Tamms is empty, Caumiant says there’s still a question as to whether the state can reasonably close any facilities.
For example, he said the Sheridan Correctional Center is now operating with more inmates than ever.
“It’s supposed to be a therapeutic community," Caumiant said. "They’ve had to suspend many, if not all of their drug treatment classes, just to make room for, and had to deal with this huge influx of 100’s of inmates coming from all over the state. We’re seeing a state that is doing absolutely irresponsible things with their inmate population, and their prison system as a whole.”
Caumiant said there is a court hearing in Cook County on Friday over AFSCME's lawsuit regarding to the closures, and a separate one coming up in Alexander County.
Illinois' Department of Corrections didn't return a call seeking comment Thursday.