Lawsuit Filed Over Prison Closures

8 Tamms prisoners moved out of Southern Illinois facility hours before lawsuit was filed

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    NEWSLETTERS

    An Illinois employee union filed a lawsuit Thursday over Gov. Pat Quinn's plans to cut budget deficit by closing several prisons beginning later this month, citing the risk of injury or death to corrections workers.

    The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees believe that the 5,000 prisoners who will be transferred to already overcrowded prisons after the closures will put corrections workers in danger.

    "The Quinn administration is failing its duty to ensure a safe workplace for its employees," executive director of the union Henry Bayer said Thursday. "Instead, it is sending men and women to work each day in prisons that the state's own actions are making more dangerous."

    Quinn revealed in June his plan to close the contentious super-max prison Tamms along with state women's correctional facility Dwight and other prisons and halfway houses across the state, even though a budget proposed by legislators included money to maintain the prisons and the hundreds of jobs they create.

    Hours before the correctional workers' union filed the legal action Thursday, eight Tamms inmates — at least some of them from a section housing mentally ill prisoners — were transferred out, most of them going to the maximum-security lockup at Pontiac, according to corrections records reviewed by The Associated Press. Their trip began about six hours before the lawsuit was filed.

    One of those relocated was John Spires, a serial rapist who held a Dixon prison psychologist hostage for 25 hours in 2006 and repeatedly raped her.

    The lawsuit mentioned Tamms inmates specifically, saying they "have a high history of assaulting staff, preying on other inmates" and should not be shipped to other Illinois correctional facilityis ill-prepared to handle them.

    In June State Treasurer Dan Rutherford expressed disapproval with jamming more prisoners into a system that already houses about 14,000 more inmates than it is equipped to hold.
     
    "Overcrowded prisons pose a real danger to employees and local communities," Rutherford said in a statement at the time.
     
    The governor's office released a statement that Tamms is expensive to run and half-full, and Dwight is near several other prisons.
     
    "Overall, these closures will allow the state to better live within our means and address the state's mots pressing needs," Quinn spokeswoman Kelly Kraft said in the statement.

    AFSCME filed the suit in Alexander County, where Tamms is located.