Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford is criticizing Governor Pat Quinn’s decision to bar reporters from the state’s prisons. WBEZ and the Associated Press have requested access to the prisons to report on the conditions inside.
For two days in a row, Quinn has stood by his policy to keep reporters from visiting state prisons, citing safety concerns.
"Prisons aren't country clubs. They're not there to be visited and looked at and..." Quinn said in a back-and-forth with reporters Friday in Springfield. "I think we have to make sure they're secure and I think the security of the public is paramount when it comes to prisons."
"I would concur with him that they are not country clubs. I would add to that they are also not tourist attractions," Rutherford said in a conference call following Quinn's remarks.
"I think it's important that under the right conditions and right security escorts, that the media and policy makers have a chance to see the inside of the penitentiaries, ask the questions, dialogue with the staff and - for that matter - dialogue with the inmates," Rutherford said.
Rutherford, a Republican, said the Democratic governor’s decision "gives the perception of hiding something, even if one's not."
WBEZ this week has aired descriptions from former prisoners and the John Howard Association, a prison watchdog, about filthy and unhealthy conditions at a pair of Illinois minimum security prisons, Vienna and Vandalia.
Rutherford said, back when he was in the legislature, he led tours of prisons in his district for other lawmakers and the media.