Quinn would consider keeping prison open

October 5, 2011

(WBEZ/Jennifer Brandel)
Quinn spoke about the proposed state facilities closings at a press conference on a new initiative to aid start-up businesses.

Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn said Wendesday he's willing to consider reallocating money to avoid a prison closing. Seven state facilities including a central Illinois prison might close because of a lack of state funds.

But Quinn said the money to keep the prison open must come from re-allocation, and that he won't borrow cash. The General Assembly would have to agree to re-allocate the money.

"The bottom line is we can't just sit here and hope for the best. The fiscal year is a quarter over now and we have to make the economies necessary to get through the fiscal year," Quinn said.

Quinn's threats have sparked fears of over-crowding in other prisons. A Quinn spokeswoman said that even if the prison in Lincoln, Illinois were closed, the state Department of Corrections would still have a sizeable budget deficit.

The other threatened facilities include a youth prison and facilities for those with mental illness and disability.

"We're not going to have as many institutions in the future," Quinn said, referring to the closure of facilities for people mental health conditions. "We're going to have much more emphasis on community care, which is more economical and in many cases many people feel is more humane."

All told, closing the seven proposed facilities would cut 2,000 state jobs.

Earlier this week, an arbitrator ruled closing the facilities would violate an agreement with AFSCME, the state's largest public employees union. Quinn said his hands are tied because the legislature didn't allocate enough money in the state's strapped budget to keep the facilities running.

Quinn's offices released a statement saying they plan to take the matter to court.