- Associated Press - Monday, December 15, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Moving about 1,000 female inmates from a closed prison in Dwight to another in Logan County has exacerbated overcrowding and not generated meaningful cost savings, according to a report from the John Howard Association.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn ordered the closing of the Dwight Correctional Center last year as a cost-cutting move. The Chicago-based prison watchdog group based its report on three visits to the Logan Correctional Center, according to the Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises Newspapers (https://bit.ly/13qhhsE ), which obtained a copy of the report that is expected to be released Monday.

“While the Quinn administration argued re-purposing Logan would reduce costs and create a more efficient and rehabilitative environment for the state’s female prison population, it has exacerbated overcrowded conditions, damaged the agency’s capacity to address the needs of female inmates, and failed to generate meaningful cost savings,” the report said.

The association found nearly 2,000 inmates are being held in the Logan Correctional Center - the state’s main facility for medium and maximum-security female inmates - which was built to house about 1,100 inmates. Dozens of inmates bunk in a gymnasium, there are a shortage of medical staff and not enough beds for mentally ill prisoners, the report found.

“After approximately a year and a half of operation, it is apparent that the facility will need substantially more work and money to meet the needs of the population,” the group wrote.

The group and state officials disagree over how much money was saved.

Illinois Department of Corrections spokesman Tom Shaer put the savings so far at $48 million. But John Howard Association Executive Director John Maki said he didn’t think any money had been saved. The report said the state corrections department didn’t accurately state how much money will be needed to upgrade Logan to accommodate the new female prisoners.

“Certain aspects were a work-in-progress for many of the 19 months since the change occurred, but the tremendous safety and security record at Logan reflects the relatively smooth transition,” Shaer said, adding corrections staff “are doing our best, considering the severe financial restraints.”

The independent, Chicago-based prisons watchdog says the Illinois Legislature and governor should allocate money for IDOC to repair and upgrade Logan and hire more employees.

“Without significant reductions in Illinois’ female prisoner population, the best that IDOC’s staff and administration can do with Logan is to try to sustain a precarious, ineffective, and expensive status quo,” the report said.


Information from: The Pantagraph, https://www.pantagraph.com

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