SPRINGFIELD — Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford says Dwight Correctional Center should not close, as proposed by the governor earlier this year.
"Our state prisons are overcrowded as it is; it’s only going to make the problem worse if we shutdown the Dwight prison,” Rutherford said. “Overcrowded prisons pose a real danger to employees and local communities.”
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees states that if the governor’s proposed prison closures happen, female correctional facilities will be operating at 183 percent of their design capacity.
In addition to the public safety threat closing the Dwight prison would pose, Rutherford is also concerned about the economic impact of losing this prison in Livingston County.
“Losing the Dwight prison would have a detrimental effect in the community,” said Rutherford. “I’m committed to helping keep Dwight Correctional Center open.”
The Greater Livingston County Economic Development Council estimates that the economic impact of this closure would be around $54 million, with a loss of 629 jobs.
To avoid putting communities like Dwight in future jeopardy, Rutherford is calling on the state of Illinois to implement business principles by having strategic long-range plans for its major state facility assets. Rutherford would like a plan for each major facility, whether it is a unit in corrections, mental health, developmental services or veterans affairs.
After careful evaluations, the plan for each facility would be put into place for multi-year projections, similar to what the Illinois Department of Transportation does now with the state’s road proposal.
“Requiring this kind of long-range strategic planning will be more effective for employees, residents and communities hosting these state facilities,” said Rutherford. “Strategic planning will help prepare use of the brick and mortar of each state facility for the future, whether it entails construction or destruction.”
Rutherford thinks strategic planning should outline what will happen to a state facility’s employees, residents, buildings and community if the operation is to close for some reason. He also believes options should also be presented for alternative deployment of those state assets.
This is not the first time Rutherford has taken a stand against abrupt state facility closure announcements. In 2008, the previous governor suggested closing multiple state facilities without a plan. Rutherford was an Illinois Senator at the time, and he proposed legislation that would have put into place long-range strategic planning on certain facility closures.
“As a state senator, I proposed legislation for the Illinois Department of Corrections, but it has obvious application today for all of the state facilities slated for closure," he said. "We simply cannot allow important decisions to be made without practical and thoughtful long-term planning.”
The current governor has said he plans to shut down multiple state facilities to save the state money.
“Many questions remain as to what will happen to the people who work and receive care at these facilities and their families,” Rutherford said. “It is obvious there is not a real long-range plan in place.
"If a current state asset is not meeting the mission it was established for, could the facility be used for another purpose? Planning one, two or three years ahead is what a well-managed company would do with its assets.”