The state’s largest workers’ union has rounded up lawmakers – representing all four caucuses – to advocate keeping two prisons and two juvenile centers open. AFSCME Council 31 executive director Henry Bayer, backed by nine lawmakers on a conference call for reporters, said prisons must stay open for safety reasons; and, besides that, the General Assembly appropriated the money to do so.
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“Every prison now is overcrowded … you’re going to hurt officers, you’re going to hurt prisoners, you’re going to hurt the state of Illinois,” said State Sen. Gary Forby (D-Benton), whose district includes the supermax prison in Tamms. The governor wants to close Tamms and Dwight prisons, as well as the youth facilities at Murphysboro and Joliet in favor of giving more money to areas such as the Department of Children and Family Services. The lawmakers hope to override the governor’s vetoes during the November veto session, if not sooner. A spokeswoman from the governor’s budget office said it’s wasteful to keep open prisons which are outdated, underutilized or both. Kelly Kraft said the overall prison population is declining, and that Pontiac Prison can house the inmates moving from Tamms.