- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 25, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The number of violent incidents has declined inside Illinois’ largest maximum security prison, according to a new report by a nonpartisan correctional-system watchdog.

The assessment of Menard Correctional Center comes from the John Howard Association, which says the 3,700-inmate facility was on full or partial lockdown 122 days in 2013.

That’s less than half of the 250 days that were reported in 2012, according to a report (https://bit.ly/1mvjgjh ) by the Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers.

The group compiled the data after visiting the facility in Chester, in southwestern Illinois, in December.

Still, John Howard officials say they’re still concerned about an increase in the number of serious assaults on staff. There were eight such assaults in 2013, up from five the previous year.

“It’s on a knife’s edge,” said John Howard Association Executive Director John Maki. “But, there’s evidence of good work being done.”

One change includes the fact that more inmates are working. The report said 550 had job assignments, up 50 percent from the 365 who had jobs in 2012.

The group says the facility, built in the 1800s, also needs “serious maintenance.”

Last year, Gov. Pat Quinn closed five correctional facilities, including the supermaximum-security prison in Tamms in southern Illinois, as part of an effort to save money.

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

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