By Jayette Bolinski | Illinois Watchdog
SPRINGFIELD – A southern Illinois judge issued an injunction Wednesday that prolongs Gov. Pat Quinn’s planned prison closures and inmate consolidation.
Quinn’s assistant budget director, Abdon Pallasch, said the state will appeal the ruling.
“Forcing the state to staff empty or half-empty prisons and juvenile facilities – facilities which are no longer needed – is costing Illinois taxpayers $7 million a month,” Pallasch said.
The injunction, issued by First District Circuit Court Judge Charles Cavaness in Alexander County at the southern tip of the state, further postpones the Quinn administration’s plans to close several correctional facilities, including prisons in Dwight and Tamms, juvenile facilities in Joliet and Murphysboro and adult transition centers in Carbondale, Decatur and Chicago.
“…prison closures that are being implemented by the (Quinn administration) have the potential to make the prisons that remain more dangerous for employees,” Cavaness wrote in the order issuing the injunction.
He added that workers could experience “irreparable harm if the closures are implemented … prior to the completion of arbitration on the merits of health and safety grievances.”
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, which represents prison guards and corrections workers throughout the state, sought the injunction. The union says the state’s prisons already are too overcrowded and unsafe for both workers and prisoners. It also contends consolidating inmates would create dangerous conditions and that the Quinn administration failed to negotiate with the union before proceeding with the closures.
The injunction prevents the state from transferring prisoners and laying off workers while the two sides arbitrate the union’s grievances about safety and contract violations.
The union previously obtained a temporary restraining order from the court. Wednesday’s injunction replaces the order.
AFSCME director Henry Bayer said Quinn’s push to close prisons has disrupted the state’s prison system and would put workers and inmates at risk.
“We call on Gov. Quinn to drop these closures, end his costly litigation and work with us to make state prisons safer,” Bayer said.