Skip to main content

Afternoon Shift

Tamms supermax closure: Life inside and the future of the facility

Gov. Jim Edgar announces the opening of the Tamms Correctional Center, a $73 million prison complex in Tamms, Ill., Tuesday, Feb. 3, 1998. (AP/File)

During his annual budget address in February, Gov. Pat Quinn proposed closing the Tamms Correctional Center in southern Illinois. On Monday, passionate supporters and opponents of that move gathered at a hearing in Ullin, Illinois. Supporters of the closure include the Tamms Ten Year project. Laurie Jo Reynolds has led that since 2008 and says that inmates face inhumane conditions at the maximum security prison. Members from AFSCME were also on hand to testify in front of the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability.

Anders Lindall, public affairs director from AFSCME Council 31, says keeping Tamms open is about more than just retaining jobs, but that violent behavior by inmates sent toTamms threatens the officers' safety.

Lindall and Reynolds join Steve Edwards on The Afternoon Shift to explain more about Monday's hearing and their views on the future of the prison. And, former inmate Brian Nelson talks about life at Tamms. Nelson has been out for 20 months and now works at a paralegal.

The Tamms Ten Year's work isn't limited to advocating for the prison's closure. The group also works with inmates on participating in arts and culture projects, including poetry reading and letter writing campaigns. They're currently working on a project that aims to fulfill inmates' requests for photographs and other objects that remind them of life on the outside. Requests have ranged from a photo of Jennifer Lopez to a detailed picture of Chicago's Englewood neighborhood, specifically taken between 2 and 4 p.m. The group is seeking photographers and other artists to help fulfill the requests.

A correction has been made to this story.

An earlier version of this blog post misstated that Laurie Jo Reynolds has led Tamms Ten Year for a decade. She has been lead organizer of that group since 2008, a decade after Tamms Correctional Center opened.

Get the WBEZ App

Download the best live and on-demand public radio experience. Find out more.