From Illinois Public Radio - News Local/State -

Arbitrator: Quinn May Close Prisons

The union that represents Illinois correctional workers is continuing its fight to keep Governor Pat Quinn from closing two prisons and several other facilities. Now that an arbitrator has ruled in favor the Quinn administration, both sides are taking the fight back to court.

Quinn said he wants to close the prisons in Tamms and Dwight and juvenile centers in Joliet and Murphysboro, but the prison workers' union, AFSCME, points out that Illinois prisons are already teeming at 150 percent of capacity.

Union spokesman Anders Lindall said that leads to dangerous conditions:

"The state's budget problems don't excuse Pat Quinn from providing that safe workplace for the men and women of the Illinois Department of Corrections or Juvenile Justice," he said.

The closures have been on hold while the union negotiated with the administration.

In August, an independent arbitrator ruled the state had to continue negotiating with the union. But now he said the state has done enough. Quinn spokesman Abdon Pallasch said that's good news for taxpayers.

"Keeping these prisons open has been costing the taxpayers of Illinois an extra $7 million a month," Pallasch said.

Both sides are turning to courts, though on opposite ends of the state. The administration is asking a Cook County judge to let the closures proceed. The union is suing in far southern Illinois, where prisons are a big employer.