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Judge Extends Order Barring Illinois Prison Closures

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s plan to save money by closing six correctional facilities was halted again Wednesday when a southern Illinois judge ordered the Democrat to negotiate terms with a union representing prison workers.

Associate Circuit Judge Charles Cavaness issued the order from Alexander County. That’s home to the central point of the dustup, the high-security Tamms prison Quinn wants shuttered.

The preliminary injunction sought by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees halts plans to close the Tamms “supermax,” the women’s prison at Dwight, three halfway houses and two juvenile detention centers and bars any employee layoffs.

Quinn spokesman Abdon Pallasch said delaying the closures, most of which were scheduled for Aug. 31, is costing the state $7 million a month it doesn’t have. Pallasch said the administration plans to appeal the ruling to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Cavaness agreed with AFSCME’s argument that Quinn’s changes, such as closing Tamms and transferring highly troublesome inmates to the maximum-security prison at Pontiac, are so drastic they require adjustments to contractual working conditions. Particularly in a prison system designed for 33,700 inmates but holding more than 49,000.

In the order, Cavaness again agreed that AFSMCE had shown the closures “have the potential to make the prisons that remain more dangerous for employees.” He had made that statement a month ago when he issued a temporary prohibition on closures. Quinn appealed that decision to a state appellate court but lost and that appeal remains before the Supreme Court.

That action resulted from an independent arbitrator’s ruling in late August that Quinn had violated the AFSCME contract by not negotiating the impact of the closures on working conditions.

Pallasch did not know how the judge’s ruling or the administration’s appeal would affect facility closures. He said the administration would have to find money not in the budget Quinn vetoed spending legislators provided to keep the facilities open to make up for the shortfall, but did not know how that would be accomplished.

© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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