New legislation proposed to save Hardin Co. Work Camp

Hardin County Work Camp could face closure

HARDIN COUNTY, IL (KFVS) - Gov. Bruce Rauner announced earlier this summer his plans to close the Hardin County work camp due to state budget problems.

But some local leaders are trying to push to keep it open.

State Rep. Brandon Phelps held a press conference Tuesday discussing his latest efforts to keep the Hardin County Work Camp open, saying it's an important facility to the community.

"This is one of the biggest employers Hardin County has and we need more facilities like this because what it means to the community," Phelps said.

Phelps said he will be pushing legislation, House Bill 4326, in Springfield, saying he wants to try and use every tool in the tool box to protect to keep the work camp open.

"We want to make sure we keep this open, not only is it vital for the area, but natural disasters," Phelps said. "I mean these are some of the people that are on the front lines trying to help out other communities where communities can't afford the extra help to do this."

For Colby Potts, he's worked at this facility for 17 years and says the impact it has for the surrounding communities is something that needs to be recognized.

"What we give to these communities and these towns and these citizens is well worth what we're paid for. We are providing local labor for those towns," Potts said. "Without us they can't afford workers, they can't afford people to mow the years, to clean up the sidewalks, to help these elderly people out. They can't afford it. We provide it for these citizens we provide it for these inmates."

He says hearing the news of plans to close the facility is frustrating.

"To see this when I got here 17 years ago just fall to the waste side because of politics basically," Potts said.

The total number of inmates currently at the facility was at 85 just a few weeks ago. That's down from more than 260 inmates that were there back in January. Sources say it's due to new inmates not being assigned to the camp.

IDOC mentioned inmate numbers are down not only at the Hardin County Work Camp, but other work camps as well.

IDOC also stated it spends nearly $3.5 million a year at the Hardin County work camp.

By closing the facility by December 31st, IDOC stated approximately $1 million annually will be saved, which includes approximately $450,000 in operating savings and approximately $550,000 in overtime and fuel savings at Shawnee and Vienna through the increased staff.

There were questions raised as to whether or not employees at the Hardin County work camp would lose their jobs.

Governor Bruce Rauner's office stated while closures are always difficult, the administration is allowing employees at the work camp to transfer to the Shawnee or Vienna Correctional Centers.

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