Mt. Vernon Register-News

State News

April 1, 2013

Pontiac warden: No violence with ex-Tamms inmates

(Continued)

It would have been eye-opening, said Frank Turner, a correctional officer and Pontiac AFSCME president, who took the tour.

"North segregation, it's a different atmosphere," Turner told reporters outside the prison gate after the tour. "The inmates that you saw, they're going to be, to a certain extent, respectful, because they don't want to end up in the North house.

"These are people no one wants in society and in the prison system, no one wants them either," Turner said.

Pfister and his top staff guided reporters through the grounds — which, except for guard towers and razor wire, could almost pass for a college campus — and into the commissary and dietary units, and the cell houses — including the units that make up the original prison which opened in 1871.

"What you saw today, none of that was done in the last week or for the purposes of you guys coming," Pfister said, alluding to fixed windows and painted walls that greeted media visitors at a southern Illinois facility. "The line staff here take much pride in what they do."

Although discouraged from talking to them, the visitors did see ex-Tamms inmates, but not those who had not gone to the former supermax for violent incidents. Even if Tamms had stayed open, the languid-looking inmates who stared and occasionally waved at reporters would have finished their disciplinary time at Tamms and likely returned to Pontiac by now, Pfister said.

The warden and his staff exchanged greetings with inmates and listened to updates on their progress.

"We just deal with them respectfully and professionally and treat them like a man," Pfister said. "They've already been judged. That's not our job."

Illinois Department of Corrections Director S.A. "Tony" Godinez promised lawmakers last spring that procedures at Pontiac for the Tamms inmates would be "identical," but by August, when the first inmates transferred, procedures had changed.

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