A bipartisan group of state lawmakers is promising a fight to overturn the Governor's veto of funding for prisons at Dwight and Tamms and other state facilities. Pat Quinn has announced closures of those corrections installations. Henry Bayer, the head of the union representing most prison workers, says the prison system is already overcrowded and closing two prisons will erode safety.
"Just one example, if Tamms is closed, Pontiac will end up with the same number of inmates, 1900, that they had back in 1978 when they had that horrific riot. "
Republican State Representative Jason Barickman says Governor Quinn is ignoring pet projects and other items that can be cut and preferring cuts that will hurt public safety.
"I'm certainly concerned about the safety aspects of an overcrowded prison system that cannot bear further stresses."
Bayer says closing the facilities would return the corrections department to the era when several guards were killed each year.
"Before Tamms was built and before a lot of other security measures were put into place, remember what the department was like. You all remember the Speck tapes and the gangs had the run of these facilities and it was a mess! But, it won't take very long for it to revert back to what it was if the Governor goes forward with this plan."
Bayer is refering to videos of mass murderer Richard Speck getting drunk and high in prison and boasting that he had it better than when he was free. That scandal in the 1980s lead to large changes in the Illinois corrections system. Democratic State Representative Frank Mautino of Spring Valley says it does not make sense to close Tamms because it is the second newest and most technologically advanced prison in the state. Mautino says it does not make sense to close Dwight because prisoner transportation costs would eat up any prospective savings. Overriding Quinn requires a three-fifths majority. Legislators wouldn't say how close they are to that goal. The fall veto session is also scheduled after the scheduled end of August closure for the Dwight and Tamms prisons. Bayer says the union is also considering a lawsuit and other options to hold off the closures until lawmakers can act in October.
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