The Illinois Department of Corrections says it does not have a new policy regarding media tours of prisons. The department’s media policy dates to 1996. It allows visits to specific inmates, but not tours in general, just like the policy applicable to the general public. The director has discretion to grant or deny requests, and cameras, recorders and phones are not allowed.
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State Treasurer Dan Rutherford says when he was elected to the state House in 1992, he asked for a tour of the prisons in his district, Pontiac and Dwight, and brought the press along. “What I had asked to governor at that time to do, and he agreed, was to allow new members of the General Assembly, ranking members (chairman and minority spokesman) of the Public Safety Committee and Appropriations Committee, and the media to tour the two facilities, so they’d get exposure to male (Pontiac) and female (Dwight), because it’s a very significant part of the state budget,” he said. He says at the time, inmates who were behind bars at Pontiac had blankets draped across the front of their cells, so that prison guards could not see what was happening inside. He says when lawmakers and the public, via the press, became aware of that, policies were changed.
The department has turned down recent requests from media outlets wishing to examine complaints of increasing violence. The governor defended the denial, citing safety.