Prison woes are on the rise

Prison woes are on the rise

Prison overcrowding and a consequent safety threat is the latest result of Illinois' dysfunction.

Gov. Pat Quinn and members of the General Assembly have jointly failed to address the state's serious financial woes, the result being that state officials are constantly robbing Peter to pay Paul.

They move money around from one state account to another to put out fires. They also have closed state facilities in an effort to save money, placing added pressure on the facilities that remain open.

The impact of those closings on the state's prison system is starting to show. Quinn closed the super-maximum facility in Tamms in early January, citing underuse, and he's in the process of closing the women's prison in Dwight.

But the inmates being displaced at the various prisons to go somewhere, and that's causing a problem.

Prison officials at six medium-security prisons, including the one in Danville, will start using their gymnasiums as sleeping quarters for inmates, according to state corrections department director S.A. Godinez.

Meanwhile, the union representing correctional officers has charged that increasingly crowded facilities pose a safety risk to them as well as inmates. They cite a recent attack on prison employees at the Menard Correctional Center as evidence of a growing threat of violence inside prison walls.

The union is at odds with Gov. Quinn and corrections department officials on a variety of issues, including job security. So what union officials say may be exaggerated for political effect. But at the same time, it's inarguable that jamming nearly 50,000 inmates into facilities meant to hold 33,000 poses extra pressure.

State prison officials insist, of course, that all is well and there is no reason for any concern. But what else would they say?

That they're sitting on a powder key that could blow anytime? Not likely.

But jamming inmates who are impulsive and prone to misbehave together and using gymnasiums to house inmates rather than to let them blow off steam is a recipe for disaster. It may not happen, but the chances of an increase in violence, even a riot, are certainly greater than they were before.

We're not blaming prison officials for these latest changes. They're simply doing the best they can with the available resources.

The prison problem is just another in a long line of dominoes that are starting to fall, all caused by the chronic mismanagement of state finances over the past 10 to 20 years that have left Illinois effectively bankrupt.

Circumstances will get worse before they get better. Indeed, every day that passes adds another $100-million plus to the unfunded liability of the state's five public pension systems. As Quinn and legislators contemplate the upcoming state budget, which takes effect July 1, they'll confront debt and deficits that are starving basic state functions like education, public safety, roads and mental health of the funds they need to operate.

Our prison system is the problem today, but it will be something else tomorrow.

One would not know from watching our legislators go about their business in Springfield. Like so many ostriches with their heads planted firmly in the sand, they prefer not to think about the consequences of their collective behavior.

But whether legislators recognize it or not, the inmates who are bunking in prison gymnasiums testify to this state's growing failure to manage its duties in a responsible fashion.

Sections (2):Editorials, Opinion
Categories (2):Editorials, Opinions

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Sid Saltfork wrote on February 19, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Another article in the News Gazette's crusade to solve the state's financial problems by stealing the public employees pensions.  Yeah; "robbing from Peter to pay Paul" seems to be the plan the state legislators, the governor, and the News Gazette agree on. 

Ending the tax breaks for businesses would never be advocated as part of solving the state's financial problems.  If the tax break for "ink and paper" was ended, how would the News Gazette get the word out to steal others retirement money?

Stop pork barrel spending for votes, and "campaign donations".  Spend state money only on the most necessary things; not grants for wants, and whims.  Stop rewarding corporations with tax breaks in exchange for "campaign donations", or services in kind like propaganda.  Prosecute corrupt politicians to the maximun instead of re-seating them in the legislature. 

By the way; ever wonder why "Sunshine Week" exposing corruption, and advocating transparency in government is covered by the newspapers only one week a year?  "Gee... it must be because of the shortage of investigative reporters......" 

nick wrote on February 19, 2013 at 2:02 pm

 There have probably been over 100 references to public employee pensions in News-Gazette editorials in the last year.Just for the sake of variety would it be possible for us to read an editorial on the 45 billion dollars in subsidies to the giant agricultural corporations? I would be happy with an editorial about the billions in CEO pay delivered to corporations that receive millions in tax refunds.from the public. Maybe a series of articles about the 900 billion in tax payer supported TARP funds and the CEO bonus piracy that was part of the plan. How about the war profiteering from the oil company provoked Middle East wars. Maybe an editorial closer to home...such as the story of the University Research Park and how much public money went into the pockets of the....developers. There must be a few other topics for the editorial board to investigate.

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 19, 2013 at 4:02 pm

nick;  I am not sure that the "editorial board" investigates.  It seems that articles are written by a small group (maybe of one) projecting partisan, special interest opinions. 

One Newspaper, One Community, One Man in charge.

rsp wrote on February 20, 2013 at 3:02 am

They could save a lot of money on reforming the justice system in Illinois. There are people sitting in the prisons who could better serve society and them by being on house arrest, work release or any other of many ideas that are being used elsewhere that are much cheaper. Dividing up families for a low level crime with little risk of reoffending is costly in the short term and also increases the odds of the next generation being offenders. The state needs to look at the long term costs of it's actions and not just how best to get re-elected.

Citizen1 wrote on February 20, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Ahhhhh.  Private enterprise.  Private people, entitled to their own opinion, owing a private business.  If you don't like their view point, don't buy their paper.  And get off of their web site.

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 20, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Your the same guy that rants about his Second Amendment Rights.  Try reading the other amendments.  If you don't like my viewpoint, don't read my comments.  "Ahhhh....."  Now, turn your head, and cough.

SaintClarence27 wrote on February 20, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Or you can disagree and still read it. Unfortunately, it's the only game in town. The local section of Chicago papers isn't big on downstate.