Quinn might reopen IYC Murphysboro

2014-03-27T00:15:00Z 2015-03-02T18:48:05Z Quinn might reopen IYC MurphysboroBY KURT ERICKSON The Southern Springfield Bureau The Southern

SPRINGFIELD -- The state's shuttered juvenile prison in Murphysboro could be reopened as a special adult prison for drunk driving offenders under Gov. Pat Quinn's budget proposal.

The plan, which relies on the General Assembly making the 67 percent income tax increase permanent, could bring jobs to a Southern Illinois facility that Quinn closed less than two years ago.

According to the governor's budget office, an estimated 2,500 inmates housed throughout the state's sprawling prison system are serving time for multiple drunk driving offenses.

Moving some of them to the former minimum-security institution for juveniles could ease overcrowding in other facilities and provide them with specialized services designed to help them after release.

"Murphysboro could be re-purposed fairly easily," said Abdon Pallasch, assistant director of the Governor's Office of Management and Budget. "This center will help us reduce recidivism and save taxpayer money over time."

The facility would operate as a satellite of the adult prisons in either Pinckneyville or Chester, allowing certain administrative functions to remain at one of those facilities.

The prison, which opened less than 20 years ago, was closed in July 2012 as part of a push by Quinn to shutter 50 state facilities, including prisons in Tamms and Dwight. Budget documents show the state also is looking to reopen the closed youth prison in Joliet.

The youth center in Murphysboro was built to house more than 150 juvenile inmates and once employed as many as 135 workers. Workers displaced by the closure -- many of whom found work at nearby youth prisons -- could be in line to return to the facility if the governor's budget wins approval.

As many as 430 drunk driving offenders whose crime did not result in death or harm of another person could be housed in the revamped prison, budget documents indicate. They would be classified as minimum-security prisoners.

The budget proposes spending $9.5 million in the fiscal year beginning July 1, including $6.8 million for personnel costs and $2.6 million for operating expenses.

State Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, said the reopening could be good news for Jackson County.

"That certainly would be a welcome to a lot of people in Corrections who once worked there," Luechtefeld said.

However, he cautioned, there is still widespread disagreement on the governor's budget, which is based on lawmakers voting in favor of keeping the state's income tax at 5 percent.

"It's an election year. This is politics," Luechtefeld said. "We'll see where it goes."

kurt.erickson@lee.net / 217-782-4043

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