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Government, economic leaders push back on state plan to move Logan Correctional Center

A screenshot of a Zoom meeting with five people in seperate virtual windows
Lyndsay Jones
Facebook Live
Elected officials representing Logan County, as well as the CEO of Lincoln Economic Advancement and Development, convened a virtual town hall to discuss the effects of a proposal to relocate the Logan County Correctional Center out of the county.

State and local leaders who represent Logan County and its county seat are pushing back against a state plan to rebuild the Logan Correctional Center two hours north of its current location in Lincoln.

Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Corrections [IDOC] announced in March the state intended to tear down and rebuild two prisons in poor conditions: Stateville Correctional Center for men in Crest Hill outside of Joliet, and the Logan Correctional Center [LCC] for women outside of Lincoln.

The initial announcement did not immediately indicate what would become of LCC, stating only that Stateville would be rebuilt where it was and that plans for LCC were still being determined.

"We learned of that announcement 24 hours before it was released — and that's not okay,” Republican State Sen. Sally Turner said in a virtual town hall Wednesday evening. “...The temporary closure and demolition of [LCC] — we need to know about that immediately and we did not. Our contact with them was minimal.”

In April, a new IDOC report said the state's preference is to move the women's prison from outside of Lincoln to Crest Hill, effectively turning the Stateville prison into a multifunctional campus.

The $900 million plan has drawn the ire of not only the state employees union that includes correctional workers — of which there are 454 at LCC — but Logan County’s governmental and economic leadership as well.

“All of this hits very close to home for me since my husband… has worked at [LCC] for almost eight years,” said Logan County Board chair Emily Davenport. “So I understand the uncertainty that a lot of families are going through right now.”

In the April report to the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability [COGFA], IDOC said it wanted to move LCC to the Joliet area to take a “more regionalized approach” for its women’s facilities “by providing a northern facility to pair with the already centrally located facility in Decatur."

 Sally Turner
Illinois Senate Republicans
Republican State Sen. Sally Turner held a virtual town hall on Wednesday to discuss the impact of the potential closure of Logan Correctional Center outside of Lincoln.

Turner said she and fellow Republican State Rep. Bill Hauter recently met with representatives from Pritzker’s office and IDOC to discuss the “54% of women that are in prison... from downstate" and make arguments to keep LCC where it is currently located.

"They basically told us those individuals are a more minimal risk and therefore Stateville will be this new facility [where] they can provide all of these great programs and everything there will help individuals in maximum and medium situations integrate better back into their homes," Turner said. "Basically, we all said, 'What about us? We have people that would want to come back to our communities as well.’"

'Not about economic growth'

Andrea Runge, CEO of Lincoln Economic Advancement and Development, said she was troubled by comments recently given by Pritzker at an appearance in Bloomington: Asked by a WGLT reporter what his response was to economic concerns raised by Logan County and Lincoln leadership regarding the prison’s potential closure, Pritzker said relying on a state-run facility “can’t be a great economic growth strategy.”

“This is not about economic growth. This is about economic stability,” Runge said Wednesday.

Runge said an economic impact study from the University of Illinois completed in April indicated the overall financial impact of the LCC’s potential closure “totals more than $61 million” from losses of labor income, county, state and federal taxes. The report indicates an additional 57 jobs would be lost outside of LCC’s facility itself.

“This is of great importance to us because government and government enterprises is our largest employment sector by number of jobs,” Runge said. “We employ 1,489 people within government and government enterprises, so the loss of Logan Correctional Center will be a projected 28.4% impact in our largest employment sector.”

Runge said closing LCC and moving it out of the county would be another loss to an area that has seen its population decline by nearly 12% since 2000 — something she said is partly attributable to the closure of the Lincoln Development Center and subsequent closures of Lincoln College and Lincoln Christian College in recent years.

Andrea Runge said an economic impact study from the University of Illinois completed in April indicated the overall financial impact of the LCC’s potential closure “totals more than $61 million” from losses of labor income, county, state and federal taxes.
Lyndsay Jones
Andrea Runge said an economic impact study from the University of Illinois completed in April indicated the overall financial impact of the LCC’s potential closure “totals more than $61 million” from losses of labor income, county, state and federal taxes.

And while Logan County and Lincoln would be the most impacted by the closure, Davenport said some nearby counties also could feel an effect. Davenport said of LCC's correctional workers, 153 live in Logan, 200 in Sangamon and the rest in surrounding counties.

“I’ve reached out to all of those other counties and have received letters of support for them asking the governor to keep Logan Correctional in Logan County. They all realize this is not just a Logan County issue; this is something that’s going to affect almost 20 other counties because that’s where all of the employees…live,” said Runge.

While workers would not be laid off as part of the plan — even while both prisons are in the process of being torn down and rebuilt over a 3-5 year period — Davenport said jobs at other facilities are located up to 90 miles away from the area.

“Even if those positions do exist, many times spouses have their own jobs, kids have enrolled in schools [and] families have planted roots in their community — they don’t want to move,” Davenport said. “These reasons alone would make transferring to another facility really hard or impossible, not to mention costly.”

Lincoln Mayor Tracy Welch said details regarding an in-person public hearing in Lincoln were still being finalized.

Under state law, COGFA has a mid-June deadline by which to make a recommendation on the governor’s plan; Turner said with that deadline essentially impossible to meet, legislators are working on a bill to extend that deadline to accommodate two public hearings for both the Logan and Stateville facilities.

“A rebuild outside of Logan County will be a devastating hit to our community and families,” Turner said. “Lastly, the residents of the facilities and the employees — they don’t deserve a rundown facility to live or work in. This is something that has been neglected for a long, long time and it’s time it’s fixed and it’s time we rebuild in Logan County.”

Lyndsay Jones is a reporter at WGLT. She joined the station in 2021. You can reach her at lljone3@ilstu.edu.