Thursday, July 23, 2009
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County board asked for show of support for prison workers

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[July 23, 2009]  Three members of AFSCME Council 31 came before the Logan County Board on Tuesday evening. Representing workers at Logan Correctional Center were John Black, president of the union; Michael O'Neill, vice president; and Damon Lile (pictured on left). They are all correctional officers at the facility.

Black said their agenda was to inform the board and ask for a resolution of support for the employees of Logan Correctional Center.

He shared the following information:

The prison was established in Logan County in 1978. Since that time the facility has established itself within the community through employees, with their families growing up here, and by paying taxes into the county. The corrections employees have a big impact on the communities in the county.

Currently there are 327 employees and a daily average of 1,883 prisoners.

The Department of Corrections claims that they can save money by reducing staff and inmates at Logan Correctional Center. The plan now is to cut 116 jobs, union and nonunion, representing $6,264,000 of taxable income. This does not take into account the impact of families leaving the school systems and houses being on the market, sitting empty.

Black recalled that it was not too long ago when they came before the city and county asking for support in urging the state to hire more staff for the facility because of the overtime being required of the employees and the high ratio of inmates to staff.

The statewide average of costs per inmate is $23,394 per year; the Logan Correctional Center average is $17,732 per year, he said.

Gov. Quinn is now prepared to make drastic cuts to employees at Logan Correctional Center. The governor is working with the director of the Department of Corrections, Michael Randle, to restructure the department. Part of the restructuring includes releasing 6,000 inmates who have not served out their sentence.

The union holds that releasing people early will not solve problems. Cuts to services would have a great impact on Lincoln and Logan County's economy and the safety of its citizens. The economic impact of these cuts will only further open the wound left by the closing of Lincoln Developmental Center. Economically, Lincoln and Logan County cannot afford to take another hit.

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Quinn spoke to a member of AFSCME 2073 when he was running for lieutenant governor when LDC was facing closure. "I will not forget the people of Lincoln and Logan County," he said.

With the new budget, Quinn was given $1 billion to move around as he so chooses.

The governor has threatened these cuts without asking for any concessions from the union.

Black said:

We must act now to avoid an economic crisis and a public safety crisis. We urge you to call your legislators and the governor.

Tell them that releasing inmates early is not in your best interest.

Let them know that laying off staff at Logan Correctional Center will have a devastating impact on our economy.

Board members indicated interest in the situation and that they would support the workers. A resolution could be developed and a letter sent to legislators next month.

Black also suggested that the county board ask the Department of Corrections for a walk-through of the facility and that board members contact legislators.


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