Ill. prison workers worry about overcrowding - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Ill. prison workers worry about overcrowding

PINCKNEYVILLE, IL (KFVS) -

Prison workers and some lawmakers have many concerns in the wake of the governor's proposed closure of several state facilities in Illinois.

There are new details about where the state plans to house over-flow inmates has some questioning the safety of all involved.

In a report to the commission on government forecasting and accountability, the Illinois Department of Corrections (I-DOC) lays out plans to house inmates displaced by Logan Correctional Center's closure in the gymnasiums of other Illinois prisons.

"As you saw in the COFGA report, it will put a burden on the system, but we will have to do that." "Anything that we do, our major concern and first priority is always safety of the public, the staff and inmates," said I-DOC spokesperson Sharyn Elman.

But Pinckneyville Correctional Supply Supervisor Randy Hellmann says he's seen this all before, and he says it was anything but safe.

"In 1983, I was a correctional officer at Centralia Correctional Center," Hellmann said.

"It was a very, very dangerous situation, we took 100 plus inmates in the gym, placed them on mattresses with nothing but a box to place their personal belongings in," Hellmann adds. "There were a lot of gang fights, staff injuries, inmate-on-inmate assaults. You cannot provide any security during those times."

It's a scene Hellmann says he doesn't want to see again. But the governor's tentative plan is to close Logan Correctional Center December 31. Nearly 2000 inmates would be sent to other medium security prisons in the state, including Pinckneyville, Shawnee, and Big Muddy Correctional Centers in southern Illinois.

"Actually, there's one more, they're talking about moving several from another facility that's closing to Tamms, to it'll affect about every correctional center in our area," Hellmann said. "It scares me most of all because my constituents who work in those facilities can be put in dangerous situations where they're already overcrowded."

I-DOC spokesperson Sharyn Elman wouldn't address the overcrowding issues, but stressed this is just the beginning of a process, and things are still subject to change.

Randy Hellmann is the president of the Pinckneyville prison workers union.

He says he and his members intend to fight this plan with calls and e-mails to their lawmakers and the governor's office.

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