SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Pat Quinn’s decision to move forward with the closure of the all-female Dwight Correctional Center will jumpstart what amounts to a massive game of musical chairs for some of the state’s most hardened criminals.

Under the governor’s closure plan, expected to be finalized by Aug. 31, the nearly 1,000 women in Dwight – including those in the maximum-security wing -- will be transferred to the Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln, located about 90 miles to the south.

However, Logan currently is home to about 1,970 male prisoners. Some of those male inmates will be moved to the nearby Lincoln Correctional Center, while others will be sent to other prisons within the state.

The nearly 1,000 female prisoners currently housed at Lincoln will be moved into Logan, which will need about $500,000 in construction work to accommodate its new residents.

Once the prison switcheroo is complete, the state expects to save $27.7 million in the fiscal year that begins July 1 and an estimated $37.3 million in future years.

Although the Quinn administration has said the closure of Dwight is imminent, it remains unclear when inmates will start to move.

“The department has not determined a start date for the transfer process but anticipates that transfers will be accomplished by August 31st,” said IDOC spokeswoman Stacey Solano.

Officials say the closure of one of the state’s lockups for women can be done because overcrowding is not an issue. Unlike the male prison population, which skyrocketed after Quinn ended a politically explosive early prisoner release program in 2009, budget officials say the female inmate population is not growing rapidly.

“Dwight houses women, and the female prison population is trending down. Between 2005 and 2011 IDOC female prison admissions decreased 41 percent,” noted Kelly Kraft, spokeswoman for Quinn’s budget office.

Lawmakers have sent Quinn legislation to reinstate an early prisoner release program, which he may need to sign in order to accommodate the added inmates being moved out of Logan Correctional Center.

In addition to saving money used for daily operations, Illinois Department of Corrections officials say the closure of Dwight also will help the state avoid the cost of repairing aging buildings on the grounds.

Some of the buildings and cottages currently housing female inmates were built in the 1930s. The administration says at least $11.6 million is needed for maintenance projects, ranging from roofing repairs, water treatment upgrades and shower repairs.

(Kurt Erickson can be reached at kurt.erickson@lee.net or 217-782-4043)

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