Illinois prison closure ruling could come Friday

2012-10-04T22:05:00Z Illinois prison closure ruling could come FridayKurt Erickson The Quad-City Times
October 04, 2012 10:05 pm  • 

SPRINGFIELD — An Alexander County judge could rule as early as Friday on a request to stop Gov. Pat Quinn from closing prisons, halfway houses and youth detention facilities.

On Thursday, Associate Circuit Court Judge Charles Cavaness received written copies of closing arguments in the lawsuit brought by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31.

The union wants Cavaness to block the closure of prisons in Dwight and Tamms, a youth facility in Murphysboro and adult transition centers in Decatur and Carbondale.

The judge’s decision will mark the latest in a series of legal rulings affecting state government operations since Quinn announced in February that he wanted to close 60 large and small state facilities to save

$80 million. The union also is fighting Quinn’s decision to not pay salary increases outlined in AFSCME’s labor agreement with the state.

Cavaness issued a temporary restraining order in September stopping the Chicago Democrat from moving forward with the closures pending the outcome of further legal wrangling.

During hearings in Cairo last week, AFSCME officials said moving violent inmates out of Tamms and into an already-crowded prison system could endanger the safety of prison employees.

Despite the temporary restraining order, Quinn’s closure plan is affecting some workers.

At the Murphysboro youth prison, employees are being transported in vans each day to the Harrisburg youth prison, where they work for about four hours per day before being driven back to Murphysboro.

Murphysboro has the capacity to hold 156 youth, but the facility was emptied on July 9 as part of Quinn’s closure plan, leaving employees with little to do pending the outcome of the legal fight.

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