Tamms Prison Workers Begin Lay-Off Process
By WestKyStar Staff
TAMMS, IL - As Gov. Pat Quinn continues to move toward closing the Tamms Correctional Center on August 31, the union hasn't given up hope.
"We're still fighting to keep the facility open. We think it's a vital tool that the department has to maintain order in the other facilities. We think it's an important part of that," said Oliver said Toby Oliver, Union President for local 2758 at Tamms.
But while they hope for the best, they're planning for the worst. Oliver says the union has begun the process of laying off workers. There are some jobs available at other locations, so workers are deciding if they want to move in order to keep their jobs with the Department of Corrections.
Quinn decided to close the supermax facility at Tamms, along with another prison in Dwight, saying it would save money. The General Assembly found and appropriated money for both facilities in June, but Quinn said that money could be saved and used elsewhere, since the prisons aren't needed. Since Tamms was built and opened as a deterrent - to house inmates who were fighting or otherwise disruptive in other facilities - Oliver says it's not just about money.
"I think the Governor's out-of-touch with his reality. Tamms was brought online because of the gang affiliations, and the staff assaults, and the inmate-on-inmate assaults. And now that Tamms has been taken out of that equation, we're starting to see the staff assaults increase, we're starting to see the inmate-on-inmate assaults increase, and we're starting to see the gang activity increase. And all this is the writing on the wall. We're gonna go back to the system that we had 15 years ago, when people were being taken out of these facilities in ambulances, so it's crucial that we stay online," Oliver said.
Oliver believes that without Tamms, the system may return to where it was 15 years ago, when people were being carried out of the facilities in ambulances. Currently, the state's prisons hold 14,000 more inmates than they are designed for.
Overcrowding, violence, and grudges among inmates contribute to volatility at prisons. and that's why Tamms has operated the way it does - without many of the privileges at other facilities. It's far removed from Chicago and other large cities, so most state inmates don't get visits as often. The commissary shop is smaller, there are no large group activities, and they have just begun allowing inmate telephone calls within the last year.
Oliver says, "If you did something to get to Tamms, you did it. You were placed here because of your actions in prison."
He says that the Department of Corrections told him they did not have statistics on violence in other Illinois prisons, but they used to, and always release manage to them quarterly. So, Oliver believes that violence has increased because inmates know Tamms will not be part of their punishment, but the department is keeping that data under wraps.
Workers at the facility hope the Governor changes his mind, for the sake of their jobs, and for the state prison system as a whole.