Pontiac Correctional Center uncertainty leads lawmakers to call for transparency from governor’s administration

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State lawmakers have called a joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary and House Appropriations-Public Safety Committees to get an update on Pontiac and Vandalia prisons.

Concern about the futures of the two facilitates came about after a number of recent unannounced transfers of prisoners out of the prisons. A leaked document soon began circulating that listed plans for partial closures at both facilities. The governor’s administration referred to the document as an internal memo.

Recently, however, Illinois Department of Corrections Director Rob Jeffreys confirmed to lawmakers during a web call the leaked information was correct and reflected the plans of the administration.

“The Pritzker administration has not been transparent or forthcoming about what if any long-term plans are in place for Illinois prisons, which is a major reason why this process needs legislative oversight,” said State Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington). “The Pontiac Correctional Center is an important economic and employment anchor for the region. Any discussion about the future of the facility should have all of the stakeholders at the table.”

(Third from left, center) State Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) speaks at an event with fellow Republican lawmakers. Barickman and fellow lawmaker Rep. Tom Bennett (R-Gibson City) are hosting a town hall meeting 6:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 10, at Pontiac High School, 1100 E. Indiana Ave., to discuss the Pontiac Correctional Center. (Photo provided)

The maximum-security Pontiac Correctional Center houses 1,065 inmates.

“Director Jeffreys has said there is a vision and a plan for the department in general and the Pontiac prison specifically, but the Pontiac community needs to know what that plan is,” said Rep. Tom Bennett (R-Gibson City), whose redrawn district will take in portions of La Salle County. “We have invited him to come and explain his vision, but he has declined to do so. PCC is a critical part of the Livingston County community. The communication from the department to the affected members of the public has been very poor and needs to improve.”

State Rep. Tom Bennett (R-Gibson City), whose district includes portions of La Salle and Livingston counties, will lead a town hall meeting with Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) on Tuesday, May 10, to discuss the future of the Pontiac Correctional Center. (Photo provided)

Downstate lawmakers are making a similar call for the Vandalia facility.

During the recent web call with lawmakers, the IDOC director agreed to take part in town halls in both communities to update the members of the public on plans for the facilities. When the legislators contacted him to set dates for the events, the director refused to honor his earlier commitment and said he would be unavailable to take part.

“The Pontiac prison is close to my district and employs a number of my constituents. Any time we are proposing changes to state policy or law that affect the employment of hundreds of people or more, we should be very deliberate and transparent so we can fully understand the reasoning and end result,” said Rep. Lance Yednock (D-Ottawa). “I join my colleagues from the areas around these prisons with a bipartisan message: on behalf of our constituents, please join us to explain publicly the plans for these two prisons. It’s the least we can do when making these important decisions.”

State Rep. Lance Yednock (D-Ottawa) (Photo provided)

A hearing of the Senate Judiciary and House Appropriations-Public Safety Committees would require the administration to discuss their plans publicly, lawmakers said.

“The complete lack of transparency and contradictory statements about the Pontiac and Vandalia correctional facilities has created unnecessary anxiety and uncertainty for both their employees and local communities,” said Senate Deputy Minority Leader Sue Rezin (R-Morris). “I believe it is appropriate and necessary for the General Assembly to hold a joint hearing so that we can obtain clear and precise answers regarding the Administration’s future plans for these facilities.”

State Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) announced her campaign for re-election to the state senate in the 38th District.

State Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) (Photo provided)

“Changes of such magnitude at the Pontiac and Vandalia prisons without any form of explanation or transparency is unacceptable,” said Representative David Welter (R-Morris). “It is urgent that the Governor provides the public with an explanation regarding these changes immediately. If thousands of people could be impacted, the very least they deserve is open communication.”

A town hall meeting 6:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 10, at Pontiac High School, 1100 E. Indiana Ave., to discuss the Pontiac Correctional Center. The event is free and open to all concerned members of the public. Barickman and Bennett will provide an update on what information they have collected from Gov. JB Pritzker’s administration and there will be time for people to offer their own comments and ask questions.

Pontiac Correctional Center (Shaw Media)

Pontiac Correctional Center (Derek Barichello – dbarichello@shawmedia.com)

via Shaw Local

May 9, 2022 at 08:26AM

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