From Illinois Public Radio - News -

Illinois Prisons Get More Staff With Closure of Dwight

Inmates at Vandalia Correctional Center

Eighty-six inmates share a dormitory at the minimum-security Vandalia Correctional Center on April 20, 2004, in Vandalia, Ill. (Seth Perlman/AP)

Illinois' Pontiac, Sheridan and Stateville prisons will have more guards on rotation.

The Departments of Corrections said most of the employees who had been working at the Dwight correctional center started their new jobs on Monday.

An additional 148 employees will join Pontiac's prison staff.

"It's going to be a very welcome addition, something we've hoped for for a very long time," said Pontiac's Warden, Randy Pfister.

Gov. Pat Quinn closed Dwight, as well as the Tamm's super-max facility in southern Illinois, to save money. But critics say it's a mistake when even before the closures, Illinois' prisons were already overcrowded.

Pontiac Prison guard Frank Turner, who who heads the local AFSCME union, said he was promised Pontiac would get more guards once the closures happened. Instead, he said, they have had to work overtime.

"If you've got an individual that's worked 16 hour shifts three or four days in a row, he's going to be tired, he's not  going to be as receptive, you know, to his surroundings, you know, and it puts other people in danger," Turner said. "If he's not paying attention something could have happened that he could have averted if he was alert."

Pontiac's warden said the Tamms inmates have caused no violence since arriving. But AFSCME said overcrowding remains an issue.

The Department of Corrections said in addition to the nearly 150 former Dwight employees who moved to Pontiac, 90 are now working at the Sheridan prison and 30 went to Stateville. Another 50 or so went to other facilities around Illinois.

According to the DOC, only a small, clean-up crew is still working at Dwight.A DOC spokeswoman said a dozen employees retired or resigned upon Dwight's closure last week, but another 19 were laid off.