Public hearing on shutting down Murphysboro youth center

Several people turned out for the public hearing Wednesday in Murphysboro.
Several people turned out for the public hearing Wednesday in Murphysboro.

MURPHYSBORO, IL (KFVS) - Illinois' Governor Pat Quinn's proposal to shut down the youth prison in Murphysboro is getting support from the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission.

The commission believes that closing one or more IDJJ facilities is appropriate and necessary for cost savings. Which is the claim the governor is making in proposing shutting down IYC Murphysboro and six other state facilities, he says there isn't enough money in the budget.

"We need this facility. We need these jobs," said Eddie Caumiant AFSCME Council 31 Regional Director.

"We cannot suffer yet another impact to our economy here in southern Illinois."

Caumiant says if the facility in Murphysboro is closed more than a hundred people stand to lose their jobs.

"It's going to reach out far beyond Murphysboro," said Mayor Ron Williams.

"If they have to relocate it's going to pull people out of our community. It's going to take their children out of our schools. It's going to affect our grocery stores. And it's going to affect our city services."

Currently, there are just more than 50 inmates in the 160-bed facility. The commission stated that closure of the Murphysboro facility should be only the first step in a more comprehensive consolidation of the Department of Juvenile Justice prisons.

"I understand needing to cut expenses, that's not a problem. But why would you shore up the older facilities that are in need of repairs, when you have a modern facility that is up to date with all the communications. And just walk away and leave it, what is going to happen to it?" asked Mayor Williams.

That is not something that has been decided by the governor or the commission. The current inmates though would be sent to one of the other seven youth prisons around the state.

"The state of Illinois built, owns and operates this facility," said Caumiant.

"They're going to have to maintain it even if it's closed. And the reality is that if these kids could be in the community they would be. They've had ample opportunities to be a part of the community. It takes a lot to be committed to a youth facility in the State of Illinois. So the unfortunate reality is there is a need for these places."

There will be a public hearing hosted by a state legislative committee in Murphysboro on Wednesday. That hearing is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. at the Davis-McCann Community Center on 14th Street.

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