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Lawmakers raise concerns about inmate transfers from prisons in Pontiac and Vandalia

Alex Williamson
Getty Images

State lawmakers are going public with concerns about the future of the prison in Pontiac and another in Vandalia in southern Illinois.

Bloomington-Normal Rep. Dan Brady is among several who have co-signed an open letter to the state Department of Corrections asking for clarification on the reasons for transfers of prisoners from Pontiac and Vandalia correctional centers. Brady said quiet questions beforehand received conflicting responses.

"Everything from there has been mechanical issues, whether it's heat or other types of facility issues at the prison to the fact that it's a planned scenario of moving prisoners," said Brady.

Brady said there are reports more than 100 inmates have been transferred out of the correctional center in Livingston County alone. The rated capacity at the prison is 1,255.

The most recent failed attempt to close the prison came in 2008 during the Blagojevich administration. The prison opened in 1871.

Brady, a Republican, said it's not clear whether this is another such attempt to close the correctional center.

"I don't think anything should be ruled out, but we have to start with answers to the questions. When you start moving inmates with no clarification, no notification, and more or less no knowledge of what's going on in the department about it, that raises red flags and concerns," said Brady.

Other signers of the letter include state Sens. Jason Barickman, Terri Bryant, and Jason Plummer, and state Reps. Paul Jacobs, Charlie Meier, Patrick Windhorst, and Blaine Wilhour.

"As both of these correctional centers serve as some of the largest employers in their respective regions, any changes to staffing or inmate population levels would have a major impact on the economic health of those areas," wrote the lawmakers in the letter.

The lawmakers acknowledge significant deferred maintenance needs at both facilities and that some reshuffling of the inmate population may be needed temporarily to make repairs, but they still have concerns over the future of those prisons.

They included a bullet point list of questions in the letter.

  • How many inmates have been transferred out of the Pontiac and Vandalia Correctional Centers in the 12 months?
  • How many inmates will be transferred out of those facilities during the current calendar year?
  • What plans are in place for transferring those inmates back to those facilities, or to move other inmates in to take their place?
  • What are the deferred maintenance needs of the Pontiac and Vandalia Correctional Centers?
  • What areas of those two correctional centers have been closed (temporarily or permanently) or are not currently in use for housing inmates?
  • What areas of those two correctional centers will soon be closed (temporarily or permanently) or will not be in use for housing inmates?
  • What are the plans for repairs or upgrades of the areas that already have been, or will be closed or not in use for housing inmates?
  • What capital requests have been made by the Department for those facilities and what is the status of those requests?
  • Does the Illinois Department of Corrections have any plans to close all, parts, or either of those facilities permanently? If so, what is the timeline for any closures?

They also asked for an in person meeting with the Corrections director to talk about the future of those facilities. WGLT has requested comment from the Corrections department.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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