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Opposition to Logan prison closure fills gym as commission considers recommendations

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(The Center Square) – The state of Illinois is planning to demolish Logan Correctional Center and there’s a push from the Illinois Department of Corrections to rebuild the facility not in Logan County but in Crest Hill.

During a Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability meeting Thursday night in Lincoln, Illinois Department of Corrections Acting Director Latoya Hughes said one reason why the IDOC wants Logan Correctional Center to be rebuilt over 130 miles away is because there’s more programs available in the northern region of Illinois for inmates.

“Providers in the northern Illinois area such as UIC, Northwestern, Rush and other medical hubs can provide women with the healthcare and social care partnerships needed to address complex medical and mental health needs and continue the mental services currently provided for the women at Logan,” said Hughes.

State Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer, R-Murrayville, argued Logan Correctional Center should stay in central Illinois because it’s the receiving center for all female offenders in the state where each offender then goes through an intake process. IDOC argued northern counties have more offenders therefore the new facility should be built to accommodate those offenders.

“They should have more people in the Department of Correction as a percentage, that makes sense. My issue is the access to the facility. A family in southern Illinois shouldn’t have different access than a family in Chicago,” said Davidsmeyer.

Colette Payne called herself a “system-impacted individual” and spoke at the meeting. Payne, director at Women’s Justice Institute Reclamation Project, said Black women are disproportionately impacted by mass incarceration.

“I am a proponent of the Logan closure and strongly support moving the smaller and new facility to the Chicago-metro area. It is that area where the disproportionate impact of incarceration on Black women and children has been most harmful,” said Payne.

Payne said the Dwight Correctional Center closing caused transferred inmates who went to Logan County to lose contact with their families who couldn’t drive the extra two hours to Lincoln.

Members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees explained how detrimental the Illinois Department of Corrections’ proposed plans to demolish Logan Correctional Center would be for staff, individuals in custody and local economies.

State Sen. Sally Turner, R-Beason, sporting a “Save Logan County Correction” green tee-shirt, said the employees’ and inmates’ lives shouldn’t be unnecessarily disrupted. State Rep. Bill Hauter, R-Morton, then argued IDOC’s decision to move Logan was politically motivated.

“Regionalization is a buzzword that means bringing jobs and dollars to Chicago,” said Hauter. “This is a partisan political process that will break promises to this community and surrounding communities to unfairly close and demolish and move our vital state prison to a location, shall we say, a more favorable, political location.”

Deputy Director of AFSCME Council 31, Michael Newman said the IDOC’s decision to announce a tentative plan to demolish the Logan County facility three to five years from now has caused instability at the facility and puts inmates’ lives at risk.

“When staffing is destabilized, the safety and security of both staff and the women housed at the facility are at risk. The department is only suggesting a possible plan. What exactly is COGFA being asked to approve?” said Newman. “Look at the turn out tonight. Look at the faces of the staff and community members present. Why has the department chosen to inject such disruption and worry into the lives of its employees, the community and the individuals in custody?”

Opponents of the relocation said the rehabilitation programs in central Illinois exist; it’s just that the department doesn’t have the willingness to seek out those partnerships and aren’t willing to invest in them.

COGFA meets Friday in Springfield to vote on recommendations.

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