The closure of the Dwight Correctional Center last week means other state prisons will be able to ramp up staff. As IPR’s Amanda Vinicky reports, most employees transferred from Dwight start at their new posts Monday.
The Tamms prison in deep southern Illinois used to house the so-called "worst of the worst" inmates who'd committed the most heinous crimes, or misbehaved in other prison and were thus isolated as punishment. When Governor Pat Quinn ordered Tamms closed last year, those inmates were moved to the Pontiac prison.
Warden Randy Phister says there have been no problems with the Tamms inmates since they arrived, some in August, others in December. That's despite Pontiac not getting any additional staff to help with the 140 extra inmates. Pontiac prison guard Frank Turner, who’s also President of the local AFSCME union, says that forced an average of 56 overtime shifts a day.
"You have to have them bodies here to protect the public and the institution and protect the inmates from each other. Somebody has to be here. And if you have to work 16 hours you have to work 16 hours," says Turner.
That'll be alleviated at least somewhat now that the women's prison in Dwight has closed. Nearly 150 employees have transferred to Pontiac. Both Turner and Warden Phister say it's a welcome addition. Even so, AFSCME says closing prisons isn't the answer when the system's already overcrowded.