Lawmakers pass on oversight vote for Pritzker’s prison closure, rebuild plan

Lawmakers pass on oversight vote for Pritzker’s prison closure, rebuild plan

By HANNAH MEISEL
& DILPREET RAJU
Capitol News Illinois
news@capitolnewsillinois.com

SPRINGFIELD – For the last two decades, each time a governor has moved to close a large state-run facility like a prison or mental health center, a legislative oversight panel has voted on the plan.

That changed on Friday – at least for now – when only three lawmakers made it to Springfield for the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability’s scheduled vote on Gov. JB Pritzker’s plans to demolish and rebuild Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill and Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln. State Department of Corrections officials and the governor have indicated they’re strongly considering rebuilding Logan 140 miles northwest of its decadeslong home in central Illinois to the grounds of Stateville in Chicago’s southwest suburbs.

Without a quorum, the 12-member panel was unable to take an official vote on the matter within the timeline specified under law for reviewing facility closures. But COGFA’s Democratic co-chair, Sen. Dave Koehler of Peoria, had told reporters the previous evening that even if absences were not an issue, the Pritzker administration’s current plans for Stateville and Logan are so vague that “We don’t really know what we’re voting on.”

Read more: ‘We don’t really know what we’re voting on,’ top Dem says of Pritzker’s prison plan

After the meeting Friday, Koehler told reporters the fact that COGFA failed to vote “doesn’t really change anything” – the governor’s office can move forward with a closure regardless. 

The vote from the bipartisan panel would merely have been a recommendation; some governors have still gone ahead with closures even after the panel has voted to reject those plans.

But with the exception of a few instances where closure plans have been withdrawn before COGFA’s scheduled vote, the appointed members of the body have formally registered their positions on nearly three dozen proposed closures since 2005.

Despite not voting, the three members present at Friday’s meeting registered their criticisms anyway.

“This is really a concept and not a plan, in my estimation, because a plan has details,” Koehler said, though he spoke for the panel in saying he was supportive of the idea of “having new state-of-the-art facilities” to replace the crumbling prisons. He added the commission would be willing to work with IDOC and the administration once more details of the plan are available. 

Koehler’s Republican co-chair, Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer of Murrayville, was far blunter in his appraisal of the Pritzker administration’s approach to the closure process.

State Sen. Dave Koehler, a Peoria Democrat and co-chair of the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, speaks at a Friday hearing to encourage Gov. JB Pritzker’s administration to share more details about its plan to demolish and potentially rebuild two state prisons once it has them. (Capitol News Illinois photo by Jerry Nowicki)

“I think that we have a thought bubble more so than the written-down plan, right?” he said. 

He blamed the governor for not working with COGFA – and accused him of either not having a plan or not being willing to divulge it publicly.

“I think this is coming from the top, and they put their appointees and their Department (of Corrections) in a place to defend their idea,” Davidsmeyer said. 

During an unrelated news conference Friday afternoon, Pritzker insisted “the legislature is ultimately going to have a lot to say along the way” even without an advisory vote from COGFA.

Though he said some groups will inevitably be “disappointed with whatever the final outcome ultimately will be,” he reiterated that the closure and rebuild plans are still taking shape.

“And it may be that changes might get made along the way, but no final decisions have been made,” he said.

IDOC officials testified in front of the legislative panel three times in the last several weeks, including at a pair of hearings in the prisons’ current host communities. At those hearings, prison employees and local residents had the opportunity to air their concerns with the closure and rebuild plans.

Read more: Communities, commission push Pritzker admin for more prison plan details 

Before both hearings this week, COGFA members and local state lawmakers were given the opportunity to tour both Stateville and Logan, which a 2023 state-commissioned report identified as among a handful of prisons with unlivable conditions caused by years of deferred maintenance by the state.

Reflecting on the tours during Friday’s meeting, Davidsmeyer said they were “very eye-opening,” but urged the Pritzker administration to keep Stateville, a men’s maximum-security prison, open during the rebuild process. IDOC officials last month said they may close Stateville as early as September but planned to keep Logan running during a rebuild.

Read more: Stateville may close as early as September under Pritzker’s prison plan

“Stateville is beyond disrepair,” Davidsmeyer said. “I agree that we should continue to operate Stateville while we build. We should make Stateville a priority to rebuild right now, immediately. Put a rush on it.”

Logan, a multi-security women’s prison, currently houses more than 1,000 individuals. Formerly incarcerated women testified on Thursday that relocating the prison to the Stateville site would help the 40 percent of residents who are from the several counties that comprise the Chicagoland area.

But Logan employees balked at that idea, even citing an individual in custody with a life sentence and mental health issues who has been worried that a move north would mean she would never again see her mother, who is located downstate. The state’s only other women’s prison in Decatur is currently a minimum-security prison.

At Friday’s hearing, Sen. Don DeWitte, R-St. Charles, said he cannot support the plans with “so many unanswered questions.”

Three lawmakers on the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability are joined by another local representative at Friday’s hearing in Springfield. The commission did not have enough members to officially register an advisory vote on the governor’s prison plan. (Capitol News Illinois photo by Jerry Nowicki)

“To suggest that I’ve been disappointed with how this process has played out would be an understatement,” he said.

IDOC officials contend the rebuilds are necessary considering an ongoing class action lawsuit filed in the Northern District of Illinois, and other court rulings the department says forced it to build new, safer facilities.

Pritzker and his administration also echoed that sentiment – and included a $900 million line item for capital improvements at Stateville and Logan, which house about 1,500 individuals, in the upcoming fiscal year budget.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union representing employees at both prisons agrees the prisons need to be rebuilt but disagrees with moving their jobs, along with individuals in custody, to other prisons while rebuilds happen.

Michael Newman, deputy director of AFSCME Council 31, said the union needs more answers.

“We’re not arguing that the state-built facility as it exists now is the right kind of facility for the long-term, what we’re talking about is how you get from here to there,” Newman said at a news conference ahead of Tuesday’s Joliet hearing. “Let’s do it in a rational, smart way to assure safety and the best conditions for both employees and incarcerated individuals.”

AFSCME says about 1,000 workers are directly threatened by potential closures at both facilities.

Jerry Nowicki contributed.

 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of newspapers, radio and TV stations statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

 

Leave a Comment





Local News

CRR_NH

Clear-Ridge Reporter and NewsHound July 17, 2024

Spread the love

Spread the love

Alumni Association members Heather Leininger, Emily Szymczak, Candice Mares and Miriam Cruz (at table) lead a crowd of LeaderShop alumni and community members waving posters saying Morals Matter, Demand Change, and Integrity for the Kids. (Photos by S. Kirchman)

LeaderShop alumni, board meeting turns testy at times

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy S. Kirchman The LeaderShop Alumni Association rallied under the pavilion at The LeaderShop office in La Grange for the board’s scheduled 6 p.m. meeting after it was switched from in-person to virtual earlier on Thursday. The Alumni Association consists of volunteers, previous staff members, former members of the board of directors, funders,…

Cleveland Cavaliers guard-forward Max Strus hits a 3-pointer last season over the Boston Celtics' Jaylen Brown. Photo courtesy of Max Strus

Hometown Hoops Hero: Stagg alum Max Strus discusses his rise through the NBA, hitting big shots and his annual youth hoops camp

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Xavier Sanchez Correspondent A lot of changes have taken place for Max Strus during the past year. While the Cleveland Cavaliers guard has played in an NBA Finals and been featured as No. 1 on ESPN SportsCenter’s “Top Plays,” among other noteworthy events, the Stagg alum is the same homegrown kid who…

Chicago Red Stars forward Mallory Swanson (left) earned two big awards for her recent goal-scoring spree. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Red Stars’ Swanson picks up Best XI of Month honors

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent Chicago Red Stars forward Mallory Swanson picked up some big honors recently, including being named to the NWSL’s Best XI of the Month for June. This is the seventh time in Swanson’s career and the fourth time as a Red Star she has won a best of the month…

St. Laurence finished second in the state in Class 4A and is looking to win it all in 2024. Photo by Jeff Vorva

A bevy of changes ahead for the 2024 high school football season

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent The IHSA’s annual posting of the coming season’s football schedule always gets people talking. This year is no exception. Tears for Fears meets David Bowie as there are changes, changes and more changes; fans might need pencils and scorecards to keep track. As a public service, we here at…

Kathy Headley

The cleanest sidewalk in Chicago Lawn

Spread the love

Spread the love. Kathy Headley Your correspondent in Chicago Lawn and Marquette Manor 6610 S. Francisco • (773) 776-7778 . In a recent column I told you about stopping at the Community Dinner held on Tuesday evenings in the fieldhouse at Marquette Park. That particular night I sat next to an arborist for the Cook…

Peggy Zabicki

Hot dog! This is a special week

Spread the love

Spread the love. By Peggy Zabicki Your correspondent in West Lawn 3633 W. 60th Place •  (773) 504-9327 . I would like to start my column with the most important news. National Hot Dog Day is Wednesday, July 17 and is traditionally celebrated all week. I decided to suggest two West Lawn restaurants for celebrating…

GSWNH_HolidayInnRear_070524

Migrants coming to Ford City

Spread the love

Spread the love. Nearly a thousand coming this month to Holiday Inn . By Tim Hadac The Pritzker Administration is converting a vacant hotel in the Midway area to a shelter expected to house as many as 950 migrants. The action is occurring quickly, with migrants expected to move in this month. In a press…

CTAlogo

CTA hiring means more rail service

Spread the love

Spread the love. Orange Line sees 11% jump . From staff reports The Chicago Transit Authority has announced that because of what they described as continued, aggressive recruiting, hiring and training efforts, it has added 8.5% more scheduled rail service in recent weeks for a total of 9% more scheduled service added since April 2024.…

the leadershop logo

LeaderShop Alumni Association to host peaceful rally during Thursday board meeting

Spread the love

Spread the loveThe LeaderShop Alumni Association, a group of volunteers, previous staff members, former board members, funders, donors, and stakeholders who are community minded and energized by the mission of The LeaderShop, will host a peaceful rally in support of change to current leadership for the nonprofit agency. The rally will be held during The…

Neighbors

CRR_NH

Clear-Ridge Reporter and NewsHound July 17, 2024

Spread the love

Spread the love

Alumni Association members Heather Leininger, Emily Szymczak, Candice Mares and Miriam Cruz (at table) lead a crowd of LeaderShop alumni and community members waving posters saying Morals Matter, Demand Change, and Integrity for the Kids. (Photos by S. Kirchman)

LeaderShop alumni, board meeting turns testy at times

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy S. Kirchman The LeaderShop Alumni Association rallied under the pavilion at The LeaderShop office in La Grange for the board’s scheduled 6 p.m. meeting after it was switched from in-person to virtual earlier on Thursday. The Alumni Association consists of volunteers, previous staff members, former members of the board of directors, funders,…

Cleveland Cavaliers guard-forward Max Strus hits a 3-pointer last season over the Boston Celtics' Jaylen Brown. Photo courtesy of Max Strus

Hometown Hoops Hero: Stagg alum Max Strus discusses his rise through the NBA, hitting big shots and his annual youth hoops camp

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Xavier Sanchez Correspondent A lot of changes have taken place for Max Strus during the past year. While the Cleveland Cavaliers guard has played in an NBA Finals and been featured as No. 1 on ESPN SportsCenter’s “Top Plays,” among other noteworthy events, the Stagg alum is the same homegrown kid who…

Chicago Red Stars forward Mallory Swanson (left) earned two big awards for her recent goal-scoring spree. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Red Stars’ Swanson picks up Best XI of Month honors

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent Chicago Red Stars forward Mallory Swanson picked up some big honors recently, including being named to the NWSL’s Best XI of the Month for June. This is the seventh time in Swanson’s career and the fourth time as a Red Star she has won a best of the month…

St. Laurence finished second in the state in Class 4A and is looking to win it all in 2024. Photo by Jeff Vorva

A bevy of changes ahead for the 2024 high school football season

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent The IHSA’s annual posting of the coming season’s football schedule always gets people talking. This year is no exception. Tears for Fears meets David Bowie as there are changes, changes and more changes; fans might need pencils and scorecards to keep track. As a public service, we here at…

Kathy Headley

The cleanest sidewalk in Chicago Lawn

Spread the love

Spread the love. Kathy Headley Your correspondent in Chicago Lawn and Marquette Manor 6610 S. Francisco • (773) 776-7778 . In a recent column I told you about stopping at the Community Dinner held on Tuesday evenings in the fieldhouse at Marquette Park. That particular night I sat next to an arborist for the Cook…

Peggy Zabicki

Hot dog! This is a special week

Spread the love

Spread the love. By Peggy Zabicki Your correspondent in West Lawn 3633 W. 60th Place •  (773) 504-9327 . I would like to start my column with the most important news. National Hot Dog Day is Wednesday, July 17 and is traditionally celebrated all week. I decided to suggest two West Lawn restaurants for celebrating…

GSWNH_HolidayInnRear_070524

Migrants coming to Ford City

Spread the love

Spread the love. Nearly a thousand coming this month to Holiday Inn . By Tim Hadac The Pritzker Administration is converting a vacant hotel in the Midway area to a shelter expected to house as many as 950 migrants. The action is occurring quickly, with migrants expected to move in this month. In a press…

CTAlogo

CTA hiring means more rail service

Spread the love

Spread the love. Orange Line sees 11% jump . From staff reports The Chicago Transit Authority has announced that because of what they described as continued, aggressive recruiting, hiring and training efforts, it has added 8.5% more scheduled rail service in recent weeks for a total of 9% more scheduled service added since April 2024.…

the leadershop logo

LeaderShop Alumni Association to host peaceful rally during Thursday board meeting

Spread the love

Spread the loveThe LeaderShop Alumni Association, a group of volunteers, previous staff members, former board members, funders, donors, and stakeholders who are community minded and energized by the mission of The LeaderShop, will host a peaceful rally in support of change to current leadership for the nonprofit agency. The rally will be held during The…