Lawmakers push to reopen Tamms "Supermax"

Lawmakers push to reopen Tamms "Supermax"

TAMMS, IL (KFVS) - Less than a day after being elected to office, Murphysboro Republican Terri Bryant made her intentions clear; to reopen the Tamms Correctional Center in Alexander County.

"One of the things I think I can do is show that I actually have knowledge about what goes on in the department. So when we have conversations about why we have the need for Tamms, it goes a little farther than other legislatures are able to do. No one will be able to spin me when it comes to Tamms." Bryant said during her campaign.

It's been more than three years since Illinois started bussing inmates out of the Tamms Supermax prison.

The fight to reopen the facility was re-introduced in the Illinois state house earlier this week.

Despite budget difficulties by the state, and alleged poor conditions at the Alexander Co facility, Bryant said her belief is that the 2013 closure was mainly political; brought on by pressures from Chicago-based politicians who urged Governor Quinn to make the move.

Bryant calls House Resolution 233 an effort to keep those in the state's prisons out of harms way.

"This is an ongoing problem almost daily, and in some cases, as we saw at Menard this past Monday, when there was a fight that had almost 30 inmates involved, which looks like it was gang related." Bryant said on Friday

The facility's raw design is what designates it as a "supermax" or "higher-than-high-security" prison, and it has historically held high level prisoners, who could not be tamed by the environments of lower security facilities. Resolution 233 re-introduces this concept to the Illinois prison system.

"Having Tamms improved inmate behavior across the state, because it took the troublemakers out of the mix everywhere else, and put them somewhere that was equipped to handle them." Bryant said. "When the death penalty was being debated in Springfield, one of the speeches that was given for the reason for not needing the death penalty in Illinois anymore was that we had Tamms at the time." Bryant continued

Quite a few folks who live in Tamms say they're glad to see all of the talk that's taken place since 2013 finally start to come to fruition.

"Closing it just lost a lot of revenue for the town." explained life-long Tamms resident Bob Dunning, "They purchased utilities, and a lot of the people working there would always come running around here. Get something to eat, stop on their way through to get gas, whatever"

Despite the local economy being affected, Governor Quinn's administration claimed state-wide budget was a big contributor to the closure.

Political analyst David Yepsen of Carbondale said state dollars are in short supply.

"The Illinois budget is in crisis-condition, and in need of a dramatic medicine." Yepsen said last month.

Governor Bruce Rauner's recent budget address outlined statewide cuts that didn't bode well for many statewide services, but many think dramatic action is needed.

Bryant acknowledged the difficult budget situation faced by Illinois Lawmakers, and said she knows the resolution's odds of initial success are slim, but her response was "if a conversation isn't started, no changes will ever be made."

Copyright 2015 KFVS. All rights reserved.