Tamms guards say it's a bad idea to close prison - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Tamms guards say it's a bad idea to close prison

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn announced Wednesday plans to close Tamms Correctional Center. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn announced Wednesday plans to close Tamms Correctional Center.
Elsie Speck Elsie Speck
Lt. Toby Oliver Lt. Toby Oliver
TAMMS, IL (KFVS) -

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn announced plans to close Tamms Correctional Center, but prison guards at the super-max facility say that would make all other prisons in the state less safe.

"No prison stands on its own," said Corrections Lt. Toby Oliver, an employee of Tamms and president of the local AFSCME Union. "It's a system and this is one level we can use to ensure safety at all other facilities."

Lt. Oliver says Tamms is what keeps inmates in other prisons in line. It's reserved for the worst of the worst and he says the desire not to go there acts as a sort of deterrent for violence in other state prisons.

"Before Tamms opened, we didn't have that safety valve," said Oliver.

And Oliver says he knows how violent prisons were. He started his career in Joliet at Stateville Correctional Center where he was attacked by an inmate and stabbed four times in the leg.

"It was a metal trash can lid handle converted into a shank," said Oliver.

He says it was terrifying to go back to work in that maximum security prison knowing it could happen again.

"I'd throw up in the parking lot before work because my nerves were shot," said Oliver. "And I was going back into the environment where I was viciously attacked. It was scary."

But when Tamms opened, there were consequences when inmates attacked. If they were deemed too dangerous to stay in maximum security prison, they were taken to Tamms where they were never allowed to be in close contact with other inmates.

"The staff assaults, the inmate assaults, we have a better system since Tamms opened," said Oliver. "Tamms works."

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