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Phelps addresses crowd at Hardin Work Camp

State Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, addresses a crowd in November at the Hardin County work camp.

CAVE-IN-ROCK — Rep. Brandon Phelps said he still plans to push his bill in early January to require the state to operate the Hardin County Work Camp, though the last-ditch effort to keep the facility in Hardin County open faces exceedingly difficult odds.

The Illinois Department of Corrections had previously said it planned to shut down the boot camp, a child institution of Shawnee Correctional Center, at month’s end, and the agency has just about finished the job.

The last group of offenders were transferred out of the Hardin County Work Camp on Dec. 10, said IDOC spokeswoman Nicole Wilson.

She said in an email on Tuesday afternoon that some employees are still working at the facility to ensure it is properly shut down.

On Nov. 2, Phelps, D-Harrisburg, filed House Bill 4362, which states that IDOC “shall” operate the work camp located at Cave-In-Rock. Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, is a cosponsor.

Phelps said he’s hoping to pass the bill out of the House Executive Committee on Jan. 13 or 14, and then move it to a vote on the House floor. It wasn’t called previously, Phelps said, because “we didn’t think we had the votes.” The votes still may not be there, but Phelps indicated he plans to give it his best shot.

IDOC has estimated that closing the facility will save $1 million annually. All correctional officers will be transferred to nearby prisons, officials from the governor’s office and IDOC said previously. About 60 guards were employed at the camp.

Phelps said he recently learned that, at the minimum security facility, “they’ve boarded everything up.” He was informed that only a couple of employees remain securing the building and on fire watch.

“We heard they wanted to throw concrete down the pipes and we’re trying to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Phelps said. “We’re told that won’t happen but they’ve moved everybody and boarded the windows.”

As of July 1, the work camp was housing 167 inmates.

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Molly.Parker@TheSouthern.com

618-351-5079

On Twitter: @MollyParkerSI ​

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Molly Parker is general assignment and investigative projects reporter for The Southern Illinoisan.

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