- Associated Press - Monday, April 28, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A federal lawsuit might be pushing officials toward reopening a closed youth prison for adult inmates despite claims by Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration that it would take an extension of the temporary income tax.

The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers reported Monday (http://bit.ly/1nyQv8h ) that Chicago-based DLR Group Inc. is conducting a $20,000 study for revamping the shuttered youth lockup as a center for treating adult inmates with mental illness.

The Illinois Youth Center at Joliet was closed in 2013 to save money. Quinn’s budget proposal released in March included $1.7 million to begin reopening the facility, and employ 103 workers. But Quinn said the temporary income tax increase, scheduled to be rolled back next year, would have to be made permanent for that to happen.

However, the state might be reopening it regardless of the financial situation because of a 2007 federal lawsuit. It claimed that the Illinois Department of Corrections was not doing enough to care for mentally ill prisoners - including not providing long-term, in-patient residential care.

In an effort to settle the case, the state and a court-appointed monitor have agreed that reopening the Joliet facility is an acceptable solution.

The news service reported that a state purchasing affidavit indicates that the monitor wants Illinois officials to “proceed as quickly as possible to change how IDOC manages and coordinates their unique housing and treatment needs of mentally ill offenders.”

The source of conversion funds has yet to be identified. But Corrections spokesman Tom Shaer says the study is key.

“We’re confident that this money will be well-spent,” Shaer said.

Quinn’s budget also suggested reopening the youth center in Murphysboro that closed at the same time as Joliet. That would become a site for drunken driving offenders.

But the state is under no similar pressure to change its incarceration of drunk drivers. If the tax increase is not made permanent, Murphysboro will not reopen, according to budget documents.

John Maki, executive director of the John Howard Association, a prison monitoring group, praised the idea behind new purposes for both sites.

“It’s a really wise use of state resources,” Maki said.


Information from: Herald & Review, http://www.herald-review.com

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