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Thursday, March 15, 2012 06:41 am

Letter to the Editor 03/15/12


A Tamms inmate being “cuffed up” by a correctional officer before he is taken from his holding cell.

Gov. Pat Quinn’s decision to close the Tamms Correctional Center is shortsighted at best and disastrous at worst [see “End of the line?: The governor wants to close Tamms,” by Bruce Rushton, March 8].

The Tamms Correctional Center has been an integral part of the Illinois Department of Corrections strategy to reduce violence in an already overcrowded prison system. The employees at Tamms have done a remarkable job in managing the most violent and disruptive inmates in Illinois since its opening in 1998.

Tamms was proposed, built and opened as a result of the extreme violence that was occurring in the prison system during the 70s, 80s and first part of the 90s. Gang violence perpetrated on staff and inmates had become epidemic during those years. The department simply did not have the resources to deal with the minority of inmates who caused a disproportionate amount of the violence.

A problematic gang leader who was transferred from Stateville to Menard would simply bring his influence, and subsequent violence, from Joliet to Chester. It was not uncommon to have these violent thugs passing each other on Interstate 55 as they were transferred from one maximum security prison to another. The Tamms Correctional Center allowed the much-needed resource to isolate the worst of the worst in a safe, humane and constitutional prison.

As a result, like it or not, Tamms has done exactly what it was intended to do. Any objective analysis of the relevant statistics will testify to the efficacy of the Tamms Correctional Center. Inmate on staff assaults, inmate on inmate assaults and lockdown days have all dramatically fallen since Tamms became operational. Keep in mind that it was not uncommon for maximum security prisons in Illinois to be on lockdown for months at a time during the years prior to Tamms, a circumstance that fortunately is a thing of the past.

The $26 million budget to operate Tamms is just a drop in the bucket when compared to the fiscal mess that this state finds itself in.

While Gov. Quinn’s decision to close Tamms seems to be just another example of Illinois’ propensity to ignore sound public policy at the expense of Chicago-style politics, his subsequent decision to move the most violent and disruptive inmates to the Pontiac Correctional Center borders on delusional.

Hopefully, those who lived through the “bad old days” of the ’70s, ’80s, and early ’90s, will make their voices heard regarding this blatantly political decision.

George Welborn

George Welborn retired from the Illinois Department of Corrections after 27 years. He served as the first warden at Tamms.

One of the main problems with both the State of Illinois and the United States is that the legislators have become elitists with benefits much higher than they should be. The position of legislator was never meant to be full time with full-time inflated benefits. The state legislators should be in the state retirement system with all the other state workers with the same requirements for vesting and retirement benefit calculation as the other employees in the system. The federal legislators should also be in the same system as other federal employees with the same requirements. However, the federal retirement system should also be a combined system with participation in Social Security. If the State of Illinois and United States legislators had stayed as citizen legislators, as our founding fathers intended, we would not be in near as bad a shape as we are now.

Tyre W. Rees

All affected by the tornadoes and devastating weather are in our thoughts and prayers. I am no stranger to tornadoes. Our house in Xenia, Ohio, was struck in April of 1974 when I was 11 years old.

Xenia rebuilt, and so can you! May God help you all in this process, and please pray the little prayer at www.de-vrouwe.info every day. Hang tough Illinois!

Matthew R. Dunnigan
Roma, Italia

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