Panel rejects plan to close Joliet and Dwight prisons
By bob okon firstname.lastname@example.org May 1, 2012 11:14AM
The Illinois Youth Center-Joliet is on McDonough Street in Joliet. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 3, 2012 8:14AM
A legislative commission voted Tuesday to keep Illinois Youth Center-Joliet open, giving hope to those trying to stop Gov. Pat Quinn from closing the juvenile prison.
The commission also rejected the governor’s plan to close Dwight Correctional Center.
The votes are only advisory. But the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) has always carried a lot of weight, said state Sen. Patrick McGuire, D-Joliet.
“History shows no governor has ever closed a facility without COGFA’s approval,” McGuire said.
If history repeats itself, there won’t be many facilities closed by Quinn this year.
COGFA voted advised keeping four other facilities open as well. The commission also objected to the proposed closing of Tamms Correctional Center, the sometimes controversial super maximum security prison.
The vote was heartening to Sharon Konopka, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 1753, which represents workers at IYC-Joliet.
“I think COGFA was sending the governor a clear message that all state facilities provide important services,” Konopka said. “They need to look at budget reform.”
Both Konopka and McGuire said the next step is to get the legislature to fund IYC-Joliet next year in its appropriation bills.
Quinn has proposed closing IYC-Joliet by July 31 and Dwight Correctional Center by Aug. 31 as part of a large number of facility closings aimed at cutting costs of next year’s budget.
The governor’s office did not return a call seeking a comment on the COGFA vote.
The commission’s vote to keep IYC-Joliet was 5-5 with the tie going against the proposed closing. Dwight Correction Center enjoyed more support from a 7-3 vote.
The panel also recommended keeping open Murray Developmental Center, Peoria Adult Transition Center and the Westside Adult Transition Center.