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State employees union disputes IDOC plan to move Logan Correctional Center

prison security fencing
Seth Perlman/AP
FILE - Security fences surround the Illinois Department of Corrections' Logan Correctional Center on Nov. 18, 2016, in Lincoln, Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

The union that represents state employees, including correctional workers, has joined other state and local leaders in critiquing a plan to tear down and rebuild two aging prisons, including the Logan Correctional Center outside of Lincoln.

AFSCME Council 31 issued a report Tuesday analyzing a joint proposal from the Illinois Department of Corrections [IDOC] and Gov. JB Pritzker's administration that lays out a plan to rebuild both LCC, a medium-security women's prison, and Stateville, a maximum security men's prison, outside of Joliet.

The union wrote in its report it supports the rebuild of both facilities — but on different terms than has been laid out by IDOC. In a recent report to the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability [COGFA], the agency delineated plans to move LCC to the Stateville campus, leaving LCC open during the 3-5 year construction period, but closing Stateville in the interim.

AFSCME said it opposes both the state's plan to move LCC outside of Logan County to the Stateville campus and the plan to close Stateville while construction is underway.

"While AFSCME supports rebuilding Stateville and supports building a new facility on or near Logan’s current location, our union believes that the IDOC’s proposed course of action would needlessly and drastically disrupt the lives of the department’s employees, the lives of individuals who are currently incarcerated, their families, and the economic well-being of several communities," the report said.

The report follows a recent virtual town hall held by Republican State Sen. Sally Turner and other Logan County leaders — including fellow Republican State Rep. Bill Hauter and Lincoln Mayor Tracy Welch — who also voiced their opposition to moving the prison.

Notably, none of the leaders or groups opposing either part of the state's plan thus far have disputed that both facilities are in dire need of renovations, though AFSCME's report details a series of repairs already made at the Stateville facility and adds that an additional consultant report to IDOC indicates that "all areas of immediate concern could be repaired for just $12 million" at that facility.

LCC on the other hand, built in 1870, is overdue for $116 million in deferred maintenance, according to one report made to IDOC.

In its report to COGFA, IDOC said LCC should be rebuilt at Stateville to facilitate a “more regionalized approach” for its women’s facilities “by providing a northern facility to pair with the already centrally located facility in Decatur." IDOC called Joliet “geographically sensible.”

“A regionalized approach will facilitate a smoother transition and continuity of care when women are released to the community,” IDOC said. “For women returning to Northern Illinois, the proximity to (University of Illinois at Chicago), Northwestern, Rush, and other medical hubs can enhance our ability to provide women with the healthcare and social care partnerships that are needed to address complex medical and mental health needs.”

AFSCME's report disputes that, saying "just 40% of the 1,039 women housed at Logan CC are from the Cook-and-collars region."

"There is no evidence for IDOC’s claim that relocating them to a new facility in Will County would improve access to families and social supports," the report stated. "Because the only other facility for women — Decatur [Correctional Center] — is a minimum-security facility inappropriate for Logan’s population, there would be no option for offenders from central and southern Illinois to remain near these supports."

The union also cited staffing concerns related to the closure of LCC: The facility currently employs 454 total staff members and AFSCME's report notes placement at other facilities — the next two closest of which are 60 miles away in Jacksonville and Taylorville — could be difficult, given the distance and a current tally of "fewer than 80 jobs available in nearby IDOC facilities."

"If the facility is closed down and eventually moved to another area of the state, many staff at Logan will only have the option of taking positions that would force them to relocate, causing significant disruption to their lives and their families," the report states.

Ultimately, the decision of whether to move LCC to Stateville and to rebuild altogether is up to the governor, since money for the project — around $900 million — already is in the state budget. COGFA, a group of 12 lawmakers, will make a recommendation on the plan, but its recommendation does not have to be followed.

State law requires in-person, community hearings be held on the matter within 25 miles of each facility. Dates for those hearings are still pending.

Lyndsay Jones is a reporter at WGLT. She joined the station in 2021. You can reach her at lljone3@ilstu.edu.