Reporters finally get a look inside Illinois prisons

November 29, 2012

Reporters visited Vienna Correctional Center Friday, a prison in Southern Illinois that Gov. Pat Quinn had fought to keep off limits.

And the prison has done some sprucing ahead of the visit. There has been lots of painting going on over the last few weeks. Workers were still painting a light pole outside the administration building just one hour before reporters are scheduled to arrive for a tour of the facility.

WBEZ spent much of the past year requesting a visit to Vienna, a minimum security prison where overcrowding has led to hundreds of prisoners being housed in large rooms crowded with bunks.

The building also has broken windows that have been simply boarded up in winter leaving inmates no view of the outside. Quinn kept reporters out citing simply safety and security.

With pro bono attorneys from Jenner and Block WBEZ threatened to sue Quinn and the Department of Corrections.

The department then announced it would give tours to reporters on three designated media days, and the first of those tours is today. Reporters, however, are not allowed to bring in microphones or cameras to document the conditions so the public still won’t see what’s happening first hand.

The Department of Corrections says reporters will be allowed notebooks and so-called “flex-pens,” and says that’s more than the general public is allowed to bring in.