Tamms Correctional Center employees begin receiving pink slips

Published: May. 21, 2012 at 8:03 PM CDT|Updated: May. 22, 2012 at 2:12 PM CDT
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Tamms Correction Center is set to close on August 31.
Tamms Correction Center is set to close on August 31.

TAMMS, IL (KFVS) - It's the news people who work at Tamms Correctional Center hoped they would not hear.  Monday, employees started getting pink slips.

In February, Gov. Pat Quinn officially announced his proposal to close the correctional facility in Tamms as well as other facilities to help reduce costs and save money.

The closure is an attempt to help reduced about $112 million for the state.

"It's disappointing that the governor is going with the action to go through with the layoffs of all the facilities," said Toby Oliver President AFSCME Local 2758. "We haven't completed our negotiations for a layoff plan yet. We're currently in negotiations."

Two prisons, six adult transition centers and reductions in nearly every area of the state corrections department, which results in reductions to staff are part of the effort to save the state money.

More than 320 work at Tamms.

"It will affect the whole region not just the employees at Tamms," said Oliver. "A lot of people are connected to their communities they don't want to move. They're coaches, involved in their churches and volunteer firefighters. They don't want to give that up just to move to another facility."

Part of the layoff packet employees received contained a list of jobs within 90 miles of the Tamms facility.

"If you're driving 90 miles one way, that's a 180 miles round trip a day, and with gas prices where they are, it's going to get expensive real quick to work somewhere else."

Murphysboro IYC is not set to close.  However, AFSME is reporting that employees at the IYC in Murphysboro are also receiving pink slips.  That facility houses juvenile offenders.

An adult transition center The Glass House in Carbondale and the Murphysboro IYC employ about 150 people combined.


February report of Gov. Quinn's proposal

Quinn officially announced his proposal to close 14 major state facilities, including two prisons.

The targeted prisons are a maximum security institution in Dwight and the "supermax" prison in Tamms.

Quinn's plan to close prisons, including the supermax prison at Tamms, is already drawing fire for its likely effects on Illinois' already overcrowded system.

The proposal to close the Tamms Correctional Center would lay off 300 workers.  The average annual cost per inmate at Tamms is $64,116 which is more than three times the state average. It houses 389 inmates.

It has an annualized operational cost of about $26.3 million.  Quinn's proposal is to close the facility by Aug. 31, 2012.

Under Quinn's plan, maximum security inmates would be transferred to the maximum security wing at Pontiac Correctional Center.

Since Tamms is located within 40 miles of two other facilities (Shawnee Correctional Center and Vienna Correctional Center), Quinn says it will create opportunities to transfer staff.

The supermax prison at Tamms has been making headlines since the day it opened.

The prison, built under the Edgar administration in the mid 1990s, began housing some of the nation's most dangerous prisoners in April of 1998.

The death chamber at Tamms saw just one execution, that of convicted serial killer Anthony Kokoraleis in March of '99.

Tamms has also been the focus of human rights protests and inmate complaints over treatment and 23-hour a day confinement.

Also on the closure list are four mental institutions and two prisons for juveniles.

As for closing the supermax prison in Tamms, Mayor Carol Mitchell plans to fight it.

"It is the biggest blow we could receive, I think," said Mayor Mitchell.

Other townspeople agree. Jackie Bledsoe has lived in Tamms her entire life and supported the prison when it came to town 14 years ago. She doesn't want to see the prison go.

"I think it's the biggest devastation that we could lose it," said Bledsoe. "There's a lot of our locals that support our families by working there."

However, the Midwest Coalition for Human Rights, a network of 56 organizations, service providers, and university centers, supports Gov. Quinn's proposal to close Tamms Correctional Center. The Midwest Coalition is against the isolation of prisoners up to 23 hours a day saying the level of sensory deprivation can cause "severe physiological and psychological damage."

IYC Murphysboro houses 59 youths.  It can hold up to 156.  The closing would lay off 91 employees.  Quinn proposes transferring some staff to open positions at IYC Pere Marquette (five current staff vacancies) and nearby IYC Harrisburg (12 current staff vacancies).

The average annual cost per youth at IYC Murphysboro is $146,491. Quinn estimates $6.8 million annually in total cost reductions from closing IYC Murphysboro.

Quinn proposes closes IYC Murphysboro by July 31, 2012.

Other cuts in southern Illinois include closing the Adult Transition Center in Carbondale.  Quinn proposes closing that facility by Aug. 31, 2012.  That would lay off 17 employees.  That facility houses 65 people.  It has an annualized operation cost of $1.3 million.

Consolidations of state facilities will result in the closure of 58 offices, maintenance garages and other facilities across the Departments of Human Services (DHS), Children and Family Services (DCFS), Agriculture (AG), Central Management Services (CMS) and the Illinois State Police (ISP), resulting in 52 layoffs of state employees.

That includes the White County DHS office in Carmi.  Three people work at that office.  It would consolidate with the Wabash County office in Mt. Carmel.

Quinn also proposes closes the Carbondale Forensic Lab and consolidating it with Metro East in Belleville.  The Carbondale lab employees 17 people.

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