Logan prison closure may have ‘astronomical’ effect

2011-09-15T07:00:00Z 2011-09-22T22:10:53Z Logan prison closure may have ‘astronomical’ effectBy Kevin Barlow | kbarlow@pantagraph.com pantagraph.com
September 15, 2011 7:00 am  • 

LINCOLN — In its own mission statement on the Illinois Department of Corrections website is this sentence: “Logan Correctional Center’s mission is to provide for the protection of society through the humane and secure incarceration of adult male offenders based upon a foundation of legislative and judicial decisions.”

Ironically, a legislative decision now could threaten the future of the facility that opened 33½ years ago.

But the community doesn’t intend to let that happen.

A week ago, Gov. Pat Quinn announced his intention to close seven state institutions and lay off more than 1,900 employees to save the state money. About 320 of those jobs are at the Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln, a medium-security facility with a population of 1,800 male inmates.

“The impact of what this could mean to the community is astronomical,” said Michael Maniscalco, director of the Lincoln and Logan Economical Development Partnership. “It would affect so many people in so many ways.”

A decision isn’t expected for months and some state legislators say they think the money is available to keep the prison open. But that is hardly a guarantee and local officials say the fight to keep the facility operating already has begun.

“As soon as it was announced, the phone calls started,” said Lincoln Mayor Keith Snyder. “We know we are going to fight to keep this. We know we are going to get the community and the businesses involved. As for specifics, we just don’t know yet.”

Maniscalco and Snyder have had talks with state legislators, who have promised help.

“Everyone seems to be on our side in this and nobody wants to see it closed,” Maniscalco said. “So, we don’t have to fight this alone.”

Where prison jobs are concerned, communities have a track record of doing all they can to keep them.

Most recently in Central Illinois, Pontiac was in a similar situation — and was successful.

In May 2008, then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich announced Pontiac Correctional Center would be closed, and other prison facilities, including the two based in Lincoln, would suffer major layoffs. Both communities fought back and the plan was scrapped when Blagojevich left office. Now, the former governor is facing his own prison time: his sentencing hearing is scheduled to begin Oct. 6 after he was convicted earlier this year of numerous corruption charges.

Lincoln’s second prison, the Lincoln Correctional Center, is not threatened. Quinn spokeswoman Brie Callahan said some of the Logan prison workers may be able to step into openings at the neighboring facility.

Roger Griffith, a staff representative with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 in Springfield, said that won’t do much for the 320 employees at Logan, or for an area that has an 8 percent unemployment rate.

“This would be devastating to the city of Lincoln and Logan County,” Griffith said. “We will be developing a plan to get everyone involved to fight against this because we are talking about careers and lives being affected.”

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