Prison Boss To Review “Hard Time” at Tamms

Maximum-Security Prison long considered state's toughest

With the appointment of a new head of Illinois' Department of Corrections, Gov. Quinn has zeroed-in on a maximum security prison in the southwest Alexander County.

Tamms Correctional Center's first warden made no apologies for christening the prison a home for a "very unhappy inmate population." Critics wasted no time dubbing it an inhumane endeavor.

Eleven years later, the debate over the lockup where the worst offenders spend 23 hours a day in their cells remains unchanged, but Quinn expects the newly minted prison chief to take a long look at the super maximum-security prison where inmates are meant to serve hard time.

Quinn tapped Michael Randle, second in command of Ohio's prison system, as Illinois' new department head last week. The Chicago-born Randle won't start his new job until next month, but Quinn already has made clear one assignment will be to examine prisoner treatment at Tamms.

"I'm going to ask Director Randle to meet with all of those who are concerned about the issue of Tamms in deep southern Illinois," Quinn said. "It is an issue we have to listen to everyone on, but Director Randle will make the final decision on what is best and recommend that to me."

Opponents say Tamms warehouses mentally ill inmates and isolates others for so long that they develop psychological issues.

One state lawmaker has introduced legislation to limit terms at Tamms to one year in most cases, bar seriously mentally ill inmates from being sent to Tamms and make it more difficult to keep inmates there indefinitely.

Randle doesn't step into his new role until next month. He's sure to find the issues around Tammes sitting on his desk when he arrives.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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