Lawmakers speaking out louder against prison closures

By Anna Yee

July 10, 2012 Updated Jul 10, 2012 at 8:03 PM CDT

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- State lawmakers haven't kept quiet, but it's now clear both parties are banding together in a fight against Governor Pat Quinn.

That fight opposes the Governor's plan to close prisons at Dwight and Tamms, as well as youth detention centers in Joliet and Murphysboro, Illinois.

On Tuesday, a bi-partisan group of lawmakers said they believe closing the prisons will only worsen conditions.

Many say overcrowding is to blame for the multiple violence and drug-related incidents over the past several weeks.

Officials say they want to see these facilities stay open.

"With all respect, the General Assembly passed a budget, which had less spending than what the Governor proposed," said State Treasurer Dan Rutherford. "The General Assembly did put the funding in to keep Dwight and Tamms open. We are already at 147% capacity in our prison system. We are overcrowded."

"Dwight has functioned as a very good facility for housing women," said State Senator Darin LaHood, (R) 37th District. "The people who work there have enjoyed working there, so we need to have a plan in place. If that's what he wants to do, how is that going to affect public safety and where are those people going to go?"

Local democratic Representative Jehan Gordon-Booth says she does not back the closure, but believes the Governor has already made up his mind.

Tuesday, the governor's office responded saying, "Anyone who calls to keep these outdated, half-full, expensive facilities open is calling for the continual waste of taxpayer dollars on facilities the state no longer needs."

Most of the prisons are slated to close August 31st.

A three-fifths majority vote is needed to override Quinn's action this fall.

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