Delay gives hope to state prison workers
By Bob Okon firstname.lastname@example.org September 5, 2012 9:40PM
A view of the health care unit at the Illinois Youth Center Friday, March 30, 2012, in Joliet. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 7, 2012 8:02AM
JOLIET — This week’s delay in planned prison closures gives some hope to those who want to keep them open for the long term.
Illinois Youth Center-Joliet, Dwight Correctional Center and other prison facilities around the state are scheduled to be closed in a budget-cutting move by Gov. Pat Quinn.
But a union dispute with the state over the impact of the closures on employees and prison conditions has already delayed shutdowns scheduled for the end of August. A southern Illinois judge on Tuesday issued a temporary restraining order that slows down closings but ordered the union and state to reach an agreement in 30 days on how to handle the movement of inmates to other prisons.
Meanwhile, state Sen. Patrick McGuire, D-Joliet, said legislators are planning action in the November veto session to try to keep IYC-Joliet and the other prisons open — if they are not already shut down by then.
McGuire said this week’s judicial ruling showed “another weakness in the administration’s plan. I hope this will convince the administration to scrap its plan to close IYC-Joliet.”
The administration has not shown any signs of changing its mind.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Juvenile Justice said the court ruling had no direct impact on IYC-Joliet because that facility is not scheduled to close until Oct. 31. It has slowed down the closing of Dwight Correctional Center, which was slated for shut down on Aug. 31.
Court actions in the past month, however, have stopped transfers of youth inmates from Joliet to other facilities. Youths were being moved to prepare for the closing of IYC-Joliet.
Some of the inmates moved from Joliet have caused problems when moved to new youth centers, said Sharon Konopka, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1753, which represents workers at IYC-Joliet. The union had predicted problems, saying IYC-Joliet is a maximum-security facility better equipped to handle the most hardened youth offenders than other youth centers.
“I am really hopeful that they will look very closely at what IYC-Joliet does,” Konopka said.