Tamms closing

Tamms correctional center employees protest the facility's closing

Rob Crow / The Southern

CARBONDALE - Few kind words about Gov. Pat Quinn were spoken during a Wednesday morning rally in Carbondale by legislators and union employees upset over the governor's plan to close two major detention centers later this summer.

State Reps. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, and Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, joined state Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, and other union officials at a rally outside the Illinois Department of Transportation District 9 office. The building also houses the Southern Illinois office of Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, who did not appear at the rally.

Saying Quinn had gone back on his word to keep the Tamms Correctional Center - the state's only super-maximum security prison - and the Illinois Youth Center in Murphysboro open, legislators said the money to keep the facilities alive is in the budget on the governor's desk.

Quinn administration officials released memo Tuesday indicating the governor intended to shut down the facilities, along with an adult transitional center in Carbondale and several others across the state by August 31.

"This is an all-out attack on working men and women. This is an all-out attack on downstate and Southern Illinois," Phelps said, as he spoke before an angered audience of correctional guards and other prison employees.

Phelps said Quinn often calls himself the "jobs governor" but isn't living up to that title with his move to kill hundreds of jobs for the region.

"This governor does not care about Southern Illinois. That's the bottom line," Forby said, stating if the governor believes the prisoners housed in Tamms don't need the kind of maximum security treatment they get in the Alexander County prison, then they should be released into Chicago.

Bost stifled his anger as he spoke of the frustration of voting for a budget with components he didn't necessarily agree with for the sake of saving the facilities.

"We did our job. We put it in the budget. The money is there. The governor just needs to sign the budget. Many of us felt some votes we took were with the agreement these facilities would remain open," Bost said. "If the governor goes forward with this, he is going back on his word. We are going to continue to fight...I'm sick of it. I'm angry. I'm frustrated."

From the crowd, a shout suggesting voters recall the governor was heard.

"If we had the power, we would recall him (Quinn)," Bost answered.

Legislators vow they will keep fighting to keep the prisons open.

A spokeswoman for the governor's Office of Budget and Management said Tuesday the decision to close the facilities was made after careful deliberations.

"While we have heard many voices and participated fully in the (Commission of Government Forecasting and Accountability) process, the fact remains that the state can no longer afford these facilities if we truly want to address the state's budget challenges that have been created over decades of fiscal mismanagement," her statement said.

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