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Dwight prison supporters look to future

DWIGHT (MCT) — An hourlong rally and informational meeting provided hope — and a kick in the pants — for supporters of Dwight Correctional Center, which has been slated for closure by Gov. Pat Quinn.

"I've been trying to stay optimistic and tonight I feel even more optimistic than I did this morning," said Colleen Petree of Dwight, whose been a security officer at the prison for 14 years. "I'm going to go home and start writing letters tonight and I'm going to have my kids write them, too."

Hundreds of people packed the high school gym for tonight's informational meeting, and were told to talk, write, email and call their legislators to protest the closure.

Village Administrator Kevin McNamara said the threat may be political, but "someone has given this some thought. ... It's serious."

Economic leaders estimated the closing could have a $45 million impact on the region.

"We're working to prepare the fighting action to keep this prison," said Mayor Bill Wilkey. "This is serious and we are taking it seriously. "

The meeting started at 6 p.m. at the Dwight Township High School Gym, which has a seating capacity of 800 and is full. Many of the attendees are wearing green "Save Dwight Prison" T-shirts.

"The strategy right now is to inform the community and build support," said Dan Dunlap, president of AFSCME Local 1133, before the meeting started.

"We have a lot of community support now, but you never can have too much.

Petitions and stickers were offered at the door.

Gov. Pat Quinn proposed the closure last month as part of his state budget address, suggesting the inmates move to the women's prison at Lincoln.

This is the third time in recent years that Pantagraph-area prisons have been targeted for closure; the Logan Correctional Center earlier was on the list, and former Gov. Rod Blagojevich also proposed closing the prison at Pontiac.  

Report: Closing Dwight Correctional Center could cost area $45M
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