- Associated Press - Monday, April 20, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The new director of Illinois prisons says union contracts are the source of many problems within the Illinois Department of Corrections and he soon will recommend reforms.

In a memo to Gov. Bruce Rauner released by the agency Monday, prisons chief Donald Stolworthy wrote the contracts contribute to “many of the ills within the system,” including personnel costs and qualifications within management. In documents, he said overtime costs in corrections have skyrocketed in recent years with a master contract allowing it to be assigned by seniority.

Union contracts expire July 1. State employee unions have been heavily criticized by Rauner, who says previous salary and benefits agreements have led to unstainable costs.

The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers (https://bit.ly/1JngUxh ) first reported on the memo. Anders Lindall, spokesman for the state council of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, told the news bureau that overtime problems at prisons are caused by a lack of staff. The corrections system employs 11,000 people, down from 17,000 employees a decade ago.

In a state House committee meeting last week, Stolworthy told legislators that he backs a budget proposal that would add 400 guards. Rauner has said new employees would help cut overtime costs.

Stolworthy wrote that he’s spotted other problems since taking over last month. He said a lack of newer technology also adds to costs by “wasting staff hours.”

The department doesn’t have an automated timekeeping system, Stolworthy wrote, and old facilities have gates that must be opened and closed manually.

Stolworthy said he’ll complete an action plan to fix the corrections department in the next few weeks. The initiatives, if successful, would “put Illinois in the vanguard of change in U.S. corrections,” he wrote.

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