By Jayette Bolinski | Illinois Watchdog
SPRINGFIELD – Illinois State Police investigators Tuesday visited Tamms “super max” prison to question employees about recent leaks to the media.
The Capitol Fax blog broke news of the development Tuesday afternoon.
It was unclear who asked for an investigation, but a spokeswoman for Gov. Pat Quinn denied that it was him.
Asked if anyone from the Illinois Department of Corrections requested an investigation, spokeswoman Stacey Solano said: “IDOC does not comment on ISP investigations.”
Anders Lindall is spokesman for the union that represents corrections employees — the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31.
Lindall told Illinois Watchdog in an email Tuesday afternoon the union is “very disturbed that Gov. Quinn would use State Police resources to prevent rank-and-file employees from exercising their legal rights and stifle criticism of his dangerous rush to close state prisons.
“Unlike Pat Quinn, we believe citizens should know what their government is doing behind the prison walls. He should renounce these heavy-handed tactics and put a stop to them at once.”
Meanwhile, seven inmates at the Tamms prison in far southern Illinois are trying to get a lawsuit thrown out of court. The correctional officers’ union last week filed the suit, which seeks to stop Quinn’s plan to close prison facilities throughout the state.
The inmates, in their response, argue conditions at Tamms are deplorable and that closing the facility will not cause an increase in violence in prisons throughout the state, as the correctional officers have asserted.
The Uptown People’s Law Center in Chicago, representing the inmates, filed motions to intervene in and dismiss the AFSCME suit. Slated for closure are prisons in Tamms and Dwight; adult transition centers in Carbondale, Chicago and Decatur; and youth centers in Joliet and Murphysboro.
AFSCME has requested a temporary restraining order to stop inmate transfers and other closure activities already in motion. A hearing before a circuit judge is scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday in Cairo at the southernmost tip of Illinois.
The facility closures were to be completed by Aug. 31. Quinn has said Illinois cannot afford all of the prison facilities that are open, arguing that Tamms, in particular, is only half full and costly to operate.
AFSCME argues that closing facilities and consolidating inmates will add undue pressure on an already crowded and understaffed system. Violence will increase, and lives are at stake, the union argues.
“The Quinn administration is failing its duty to ensure a safe workplace for its employees. Instead, it is sending men and women to work each day in prisons that the state’s own actions are making more dangerous,” said AFSCME executive director Henry Bayer.
Nicole Schult, an attorney with the law center, said the threat of going to a “super-max” prison does not deter inmate violence within prison systems.
“On the contrary, once Mississippi reduced (its) super-max population, there was a dramatic reduction in prison misconduct and violence,” she said.
State and local lawmakers have argued that the loss of jobs from the closures will be devastating, particularly in southern Illinois, where unemployment remains high.
Email Bolinski at email@example.com.