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Fight over closing prisons goes to courtrooms

Tue, 04 Sep 2012 17:41:07 CDT
By: IPR's Brian Mackey

The legal fight between Governor Pat Quinn and the union that represents prisons workers continues this week, in courtrooms at opposite ends of the state. In Southern Illinois, a Judge has issued a month long restraining order against closing the facilities to allow arbitration time to work. Quinn had wanted the prisons closed by last Friday. Instead an arbitrator says the administration violated its contract with the prison workers' union by moving to close the facilities before they had finished what is called impact bargaining. Union spokesman Anders Lindall says impact bargaining does not only affect employees facing layoffs:

"But also the impact of the closure on those employees that would remain behind. And we're extremely concerned about the safety of employees left in overcrowded prisons."

The arbitrator says the parties should finish negotiations within 30 days. To make sure the state doesn't rush to close the prisons during that time, the union will go before a judge in Alexander County, in far southern Illinois where one of the prisons slated for closure is located. Meanwhile, the Quinn administration says it'll go before a judge in Cook County asking to have the arbitrator's ruling overturned. In a statement, the administration says it remains committed to saving money by closing what it calls "half-full," "outdated" and "expensive" facilities.


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