Inmates at Illinois prisons will be living in gymnasiums within the next few weeks as the prison system struggles to deal with overcrowding.

It doesn’t seem to make much sense, since Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration recently shuttered several prisons to save money. If the move is temporary, as prison leaders say, it may be a short-term glitch. If the move is long term, it will become clear that Quinn closed prisons without a well-conceived plan.

The Department of Corrections recently closed the Tamms Correctional Center in southern Illinois, moving some of those high-risk inmates to Pontiac Correctional Center, and has plans to close the all-female Dwight Correctional Center. Those prisoners eventually would move to Logan Correctional Center, after its male prisoners are moved to the all-women Lincoln Correctional Center, and Lincoln’s women are moved to Logan.

The closing of adult transition centers in Carbondale, Decatur and Chicago are also part of the plan.

Currently, there are about 49,000 prisoners packed into a space intended for 33,000. One of the causes of overcrowding is that the Department of Corrections hasn’t implemented an early release program planned since last year. Prison leaders have been given the OK to begin releasing nonviolent offenders who meet certain qualifications, but the program hasn’t begun. It’s hard to see how an early release program would relieve the overcrowding in a short time.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union said the prisons were overcrowded before Quinn canceled a controversial early release program in 2009. They asked the governor to rescind the decision to close the prisons and adult transition centers.

The fact that prisoners are being housed in gymnasiums at the same time prisons are closing emphasizes a criticism that had been made in these pages before. While we understand that Illinois needs to cut its spending, and we salute Quinn for delivering the necessary medicine, the prison closures have not been well planned.

The early release program — which can be done in a way to keep the public safe — should have been in place long ago in order to reduce the prison headcount. The state needed a better plan to make sure the existing prisons weren’t overcrowded.

Without a doubt, the state needs to spend less money and one of the ways to achieve that goal is to close facilities. While Quinn understands that reality, the General Assembly has been slow to move toward those types of solution.

The result has been an unplanned closure of prisons and situations like housing prisoners in gymnasiums. That doesn’t necessarily mean that closing the prisons is a bad idea — but it does indicate a lack of proper planning and preparation.

(11) comments

gabeski
gabeski

The one thing everyone should remember, closing these facilities will not really save any taxpayer's dollars. It will only allow quinn to use this money for some of his favorite things in chicago, because remember they are the ones that elected him, not us lowly ones in downstate.

earlyriser54
earlyriser54

Gski, again you got it right on the button. None of thewe closings affected the crowd Quinn holds near and dear the north of I-80 crowd and these closing will not save any money when Quinn already has the savings and then some spent for as your said his pet projects for his contributors in Cook County.

ct
ct

The crowd north of I-80 pays all the taxes to run the state, so most the benefits should go there - even though it doesn't apply here.

How else do the subsidized trailer parks and farmers making a living

catlbyer16
catlbyer16

ct 80% of the Gov's. farm subsidy's money goes to people like you, who don't even know how to plant a garden.

earlyriser54
earlyriser54

If you llove Chicago so damn much why did you move down here? Free government subsadized housingg? Maybe it was to be in a safe environment? Perhaps it was to take advantage of things like cleaner air and water. Whatever it was if you live Chi so much, you wont be missed. You are a progressive liberal dummycrat who craves corruption and socialism. That makes you a perfect fit for Chicago and an unwelcomed immigrant to central Illinois.

earlyriser54
earlyriser54

To the Pantagraph staff: What is so wrong with prisoners being treated like prisoners? Do you need to be reminded that our military forces overseas indure far worse conditions than sleeping in a dry, warm and slightly crowded gymnasjioum and they are not only serving our country but are doing so voluntarily. No one asked these criminals to break the law, that was a conscious choice on their part. Perhaps living in less than ideal conditions in IDOC will serve as a deterrent when these convicted criminals are released and return back into society. One other thing I would like to point out in the headlin of this opinion. It is important that YOU keep in mind that the state leaders are not at all responsible for the number of inmates who get sentenced to IDOC. That is done by the judges in the 102 counties in the state of Illinois. That makes your headline a bit of a stretch in the blame department.

NormalNews
NormalNews

Poor planning???? How about corrupt planning by Chicago Democrat thieves?

29chancesplus
29chancesplus

taxpayers beware - illinois will soon copy the california scheme by transfering state prisoners back to the county jails, putting the financial burden back on local county taxpayers. its coming. the state will soon cost shift, shift all the prison costs, back to local communities, and reduce its state prison costs. how will they do it? they will get the fed courts to declare that the state prisons are unconstitutionally overcrowded, so either build more state prison beds (at outrageous construction expense, then annual operating costs), or reduce the state prison inmate population. california just shifted 30% of its state prisoner burden onto the backs of local/county taxpayers. unfortunately for taxpayers, their are more non taxpayers than taxpayers, thus more non taxpaying voters than taxpaying voters. taxpayers are out numbered - and in the future - screwed. bail out of illinois - while you can still sell your house and/or business at a profit. or continue to dig deeper into your pockets to pay significantly more taxes. note: chicago population census is down, not up, or growing.

NormalNews
NormalNews

Chicago's population is going down because anyone with the financial ability is bailing out of Illinois... we got gay marriage and illegal immigrant sanctuary... too bad the Corruptocrats in Chicago can't see past their own crooked noses. And that goes for anyone who votes for a single Democrat. You might as well just shove another million dollars into Mike Madigan's pocket.

Between the lines
Between the lines

To the title...Its not poor planning by the state...Quinn is doing what is necessary, The problem is within IDOC, their taking their sweet time about releasing the non-violent offenders. You dont need a computer program (Offender 360) to tell you who is violent and who isnt. Such as offenders who are doing time for driving on suspended licenses....REALLY! Instead of letting them out after 7 months they keep them there and complain about overcrowding and violence. Gimme a break! Quinn isnt the one hurting our prison system, its the poorly employeed IDOC who dont want to step up & actually work for their money. Get off your butts, let them out so they can pay tax too!

CLG4
CLG4

I got to hand it to the Pantagraph this is a real smoke and mirrors opinion about prisons in Illinois. First it is not the governments fault that people break the law. It is the governments fault not to provide facilities for the housing of criminals. The government cannot foresee what it will need in the future as far as crime goes. the state does not need to spend money on guesses. What it needs to do is be responsible live within a budget. If prisons are needed then budget for it and tax accordingly. If this practice had been done in the past then Illinois would not be in the mess it is in today. Our liberal law makers want us to feel good so they use smoke and mirrors to appease us on state finances all the while trying to do for everyone only gets us father in the hole. We need to elect responsible law makers with proven track records of voting for conservative balanced budgets. Illinois tax payers don't need to feel good they need to know what our tax dollars are being spent on and to whom.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.