SPRINGFIELD (AP) — The maximum-security women's prison in Dwight will close by month's end in a complex shift of inmates that involves the conversion of a men's prison to a penitentiary for women and the transfer of hundreds of overflow inmates to other lockups around the state, according to a timeline obtained by The Associated Press Tuesday.
Gymnasiums outfitted as temporary quarters at six prisons started receiving 600 inmates last week, according to the memo prepared by the Illinois Department of Corrections. A spokeswoman confirmed the itinerary but said it could change for any number of reasons, including weather.
The closing curtain for the Livingston County lockup ends a year of acrimonious debate over the wisdom of shutting prisons, as Gov. Pat Quinn says he must save money in a budget crisis. He won a lawsuit with the prison workers' union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, to close Dwight and the high-security penitentiary in Tamms, which was shuttered Jan. 4.
Dwight's closure means emptying the Logan Correctional Center, located in Lincoln, of its male inmates. It will become a women's prison and combine the populations of Dwight and Lincoln Correctional Center, which is also located in the city of Lincoln, near the Logan lockup. The other women's prison is in Decatur.
A "swap" of 1,000 men and 1,000 women between Logan and Lincoln is scheduled for March 12, IDOC spokeswoman Stacey Solano confirmed Tuesday night.
"This (plan) will allow the department to better serve its female offenders in two prisons rather than three and save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars annually," Solano said.
AFSCME condemned the plan, particularly because it means turning gyms into inmate dormitories at a time when the prison system, designed for 33,000 inmates, holds 49,000. When shown the memo Tuesday, spokesman Anders Lindall confirmed it is the document IDOC gave to union leaders.