Mt. Vernon Register-News

State News

April 1, 2013

Pontiac warden: No violence with ex-Tamms inmates


PONTIAC (AP) — The warden at one of the state's toughest prisons said Friday his staff has absorbed highly volatile former Tamms Correctional Center inmates without violence or other trouble by explaining expectations and "giving them what they have coming — nothing more and nothing less."

Pontiac prison chief Randy Pfister proudly displayed his facility — whose oldest part dates to the administration of President Ulysses S. Grant — lifting a curtain that Gov. Pat Quinn had drawn over his penitentiaries until last fall but reversed after media agitation.

The Good Friday tour came on the last day for Dwight Correctional Center — the women's prison 20 miles northeast of here. Quinn, a Democrat, ordered Dwight and Tamms and other facilities closed, claiming it will eventually save $100 million a year.

Nearly 150 staff members from Dwight will join staff at Pontiac, where 165 security officers typically staff a day shift at the prison of nearly 2,000 inmates.

Employees affiliated with the union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which fought Quinn's closures, bemoaned afterward that additional staff promised when Tamms closed came only at the expense of another penitentiary's closure. There are 49,100 inmates in a prison system designed for 32,100.

The Associated Press requested a tour of Pontiac in August when it became clear it would be the new home of about 160 of "worst of the worst," the moniker given to inmates exiled for violence or causing other trouble to Tamms, the state's supermaximum-security lockup before it closed in January because of its high price and the state's budget crisis.

But Friday's tour for about a dozen reporters — who were allowed notebooks, but no cameras or audio recorders — omitted the part of the North Cell House that's now home to roughly 50 convicts who had been shipped to Tamms because they had attacked staff or other inmates. It was skipped was for safety and security reasons and to limit disruption, Department of Corrections spokeswoman Stacey Solano said.

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