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Stateville Correctional Center

Gov. JB Pritzker has announced a plan to demolish and rebuild Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill.

Manuel Martinez

Gov. JB Pritzker announces $900 million plan to demolish Stateville and Logan prisons

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday announced a $900 million plan to demolish and rebuild Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill and Logan Correctional Center in downstate Lincoln.

The plan still requires legislative approval and places him at odds with AFSCME Council 31, the union representing 10,000 corrections employees.

The $900 million ask was included in Pritzker’s proposed capital budget, and construction costs are estimated to total between $805 to $935 million, according to the governor’s office. Lawmakers must still approve the capital plan during the spring session.

Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Corrections say the state will ultimately save an average $34 million in annual operating savings by lowering overtime, maintenance and utility costs. The rebuild will also save the state “hundreds of millions” in deferred maintenance and annual upkeep costs by rebuilding the two correctional centers.

“These investments will allow staff to work in modern and safe facilities, ensure those who are incarcerated can safely serve out their sentences, and save taxpayers hundreds of millions in deferred maintenance costs from years of neglect,” Pritzker said in a release.

If the plan is approved, Stateville would be temporarily closed and demolished, with a new facility to be built on its grounds. Plans for Logan Correctional Center are still pending, including where the new facility would be built.

There is no doubt that the correctional centers need heavy repair, or a rebuild, but AFSCME on Friday said the department did not seek or consider the input of frontline employees of the union in the plan’s development.

“We have grave concerns,” Robert Lynch, executive director of AFSCME Council 31, said in a release. Those include safety and logistical questions about where offenders will be relocated during construction, including the maximum security prisoners at Stateville and women prisoners at Logan.

The union also claims the rebuild will result in layoffs at both facilities. Positions would be available at other facilities, but it’s unclear what distance employees will have to travel.

“This plan could all too easily drive staffing levels so low that the entire system would be destabilized,” the union said.

AFSCME is also questioning why Stateville can’t be built on another site. And Lynch said the union won’t support the plan until the department provides “satisfactory answers to compelling questions.”

The governor’s office fought back on the union’s concerns, saying the plan ensures that AFSCME members can do their jobs in “modern, safe facilities.” Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said in a statement that it is “not fiscally responsible or feasible” to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to continue to patch up facilities that have been neglected for decades.

“The union’s grave concerns are unusual given their continued demands to increase the safety and security of the work environment of their members,” Abudayyeh said. “This plan fully addresses those concerns at the two facilities facing the most serious and expensive maintenance issues.”

The governor’s office also said that union members will continue to be employed at all times during the transition.

Former Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2016 shut down Stateville’s infamous “roundhouse,” a complex that a Chicago watchdog group dubbed “not fit for human habitation.” The maximum security F House, which housed 348 inmates, was intended for inmates who posed a threat to staff or other inmates.

Rauner’s decision also upset AFSCME, whose members worked at the F House and complained they weren’t given enough notice.

Stateville was opened in March 1925 and has the operational capacity to house 3,020 inmates. It housed 453 maximum security male inmates as of June 2023. The total inmate population then was 1,927, according to the state corrections department. Inmates have included Nathan Leopold, Richard Loeb and Richard Speck. It was also the site of John Wayne Gacy’s execution.

The Logan Correction Center is located 30 miles north of Springfield and housed 1,070 inmates as of June 2023. It opened in 1978.

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