A group that has been fighting to close Tamms supermax prison since it opened is happy to see the governor has targeted that facility for closure. While lawmakers from the area says the closure of Tamms means lost jobs for their constituents, Tamms Year Ten lead organizer Laurie Jo Reynolds says Illinois fell for a “foolish national trend” in the 1980s and built a “vengeful and wasteful prison” the state didn’t need. She says it was doomed from the start.
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“The end was built into the beginning,” Reynolds said. “The closing of this prison was inevitable. The economy just made it happen faster.” Reynolds says Tamms Year Ten is sympathetic to those who will lose their jobs. “It is absolutely the case that we need real sustainable economic development Downstate,” Reynolds said. “We don’t need a supermax.” The 14-year-old supermax prison is one of 59 state facilities that the governor has recommended be closed or consolidated. Included in that list is the state’s only maximum security prison for women, located in Dwight. Tamms has been under fire for years for the way prisoners are kept: 23 hours of confinement in cells that make it impossible to communicate with other inmates. That kind of confinement can lead to sensory deprivation and mental illness.
Reynolds says she believes the prisoners at Tamms would be relocated to the prison in Pontiac, where social living conditions should be better. She says should Tamms close, Tamms Year Ten wouldn’t go away. They plan to continue their mission of making prison life more humane, this time at all prisons across the state.