SPRINGFIELD -- State prison officials aren't ruling out finding a new use for the youth prison in Murphysboro if Gov. Pat Quinn gets his way and closes the facility.
Among the potential uses for the juvenile lock-up could be the adult prisoner transition center now located near the Southern Illinois University campus in Carbondale.
Illinois Department of Corrections spokeswoman Sharyn Elman said the lease on the adult transition center, home to 63 soon-to-be released felons, extends into 2013.
"We are always looking at ways to manage our prison population, but decisions on the potential to utilize the Murphysboro building would likely not be made until at least the next fiscal year," Elman said.
Quinn wants to shutter seven state facilities, including Murphysboro, the Logan Correctional Center, three mental health centers and two developmental centers. He says the closures can be avoided if lawmakers give him more spending flexibility when they return to action in the fall veto session on Oct. 25. In addition to facing opposition from lawmakers, the closure proposal could be subject to a number of lawsuits.
As part of the closure process, a legislative panel will hear testimony on the effects of closing the youth prison at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Davis-McCann Civic Center in Murphysboro.
At stake are jobs for 96 workers, as well as an estimated $23 million economic impact the facility brings to the region.
State Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, had not heard about the possible use of the juvenile facility as a transition center, but he acknowledged Monday that there is a lot of speculation about how the work camp could be used if it is shuttered. It can house 156 inmates, but currently has just 75 youth prisoners.
"Some people are suggesting it be used as an overflow for the state's prison system," Bost said.
John Maki, executive director of the John Howard Association, which monitors Illinois prisons, said the facility also could be used for one of the state's well-regarded smaller treatment programs that have been shown to reduce recividism rates. For example, the Sheridan Correctional Center is dedicated to helping inmates stop using drugs.
The Murphysboro facility "could be ideally suited for that kind of creative programming," Maki said.
The transition centers operated by the state allow prisoners to serve out the last 30 days to 24 months of their sentences in a community-based work-release setting.
The Carbondale facility, one of seven in the state, houses 63 inmates. Three or four offenders live in each of the rooms while they take classes, work in the community or conduct public service projects.