Study: Closing prison in Dwight would have $53.7 million impact on area economy

2012-03-19T15:49:00Z 2012-03-20T23:15:29Z Study: Closing prison in Dwight would have $53.7 million impact on area economyBy Kurt Erickson | kurt.erickson@lee.net pantagraph.com

SPRINGFIELD - Gov. Pat Quinn's plan to close two state prisons would blow an $86 million hole in the economy of the two regions, costing even more jobs in the areas than just those working at the facilities.

According to a report submitted to the General Assembly, the governor's plan to shutter the super-maximum-prison at Tamms would have an economic impact of over $32.8 million in the southern Illinois region.

The studies, conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois, noted that closing the all-female prison in Dwight would have an impact of $53.7 million.

The report is the latest step in a process started by Quinn in February when he unveiled a plan to close the two prisons and dozens of other facilities as part of his budget plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

A special panel of lawmakers is reviewing the governor's plan and will hold hearings on the proposal in the coming weeks.

The report shows that Tamms generates an estimated 40 additional jobs in the region that could be lost if all 295 prison employees are laid off.

Dwight generates an estimated 120 jobs in the region that could be lost if all 340 employees are laid off.

Opponents of the closures said the numbers in the reports fall short of reality.

Larry Vaupel of the Greater Livingston County Economic Development Corporation, said the study doesn't count the impact of closing Dwight on surrounding counties. He said the report also doesn't reflect vendors and contractors who would lose income if the prison closes.

"It grossly underestimates the impact on the area," Vaupel said.

Vaupel said the organization is awaiting the results of its own study, which is being conducted by researchers at Northern Illinois University. He said they have expanded the scope of their study to include economic impact numbers for the region, not just Livingston County.

"We're not going to use numbers that are incorrect," Vaupel said.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, which represents workers at the targeted facilties, said the prison closings, combined with other facilities Quinn wants to close, would have a statewide impact of more than 2,300 job losses and more than $250 million. That figure likely will grow because the tally doesn't include the impact of shuttering the Murray Developmental Center and the youth prison in Joliet.

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