A lot of news articles come into this site’s e-mail address. Most of them I delete as they are not pertinent to the site or the local. Recently the site received a link to a court opinion written by the Honorable Amy J. St. Eve on 11/22/2011. The opinion was written in response to a lawsuit which isn’t very interesting or has anything to do with the local.

What is interesting in the short, 3 page document is a two sentence paragraph towards the bottom of the second page which reads:

Plaintiff is also advised that the Eleventh Amendment bars suit against the State and state agencies. See, e.g., Joseph v. Board of Regents of University of Wisconsin System, 432 F.3d 746, 748 (7th Cir. 2005). Therefore, the Illinois Department of Corrections is not a suable entity.

Basically, what this is saying is that because of the 11th amendment to the US constitution any state or state agency in the nation cannot be sued. So if the state violates a contract, it cannot be sued for breach of contract. If you are walking down the street and are run over by a state vehicle, the state cannot be sued. If you feel you are wronged by the state or any state agency then you are out of luck because you cannot file a lawsuit against that state or state agency. Read more of this >>

Cellphones don’t belong in these cells

Sarah Pender orchestrated her escape from Rockville Correctional Facility in 2008 using contraband cellphones and a network of accomplices.

Pender, who was featured as one of “America’s Most Wanted’s” Top Ten Fugitives before her capture, showed state prison officials the danger of prisoners using technology behind bars.

Todd Tappy, deputy chief of internal affairs in the Indiana Department of Correction, said cellphones rival weapons as a top threat to safety in Indiana’s prisons.

Prisoners have used cellphones to traffic drugs and tobacco, organize assaults, intimidate witnesses and victims, order people killed or coordinate escapes — as Pender did. Unlike calls made through the prison system, prison officials can’t monitor inmates’ cellphone calls.

“We have serious concerns about their introduction into any of our facilities,” said Traci Billingsley, spokeswoman for the Bureau of Prisons.

More than 1,760 cellphones were confiscated from Indiana state prisons in 2010, Department of Correction data show. The Bureau of Prisons confiscated more than 3,600 cellphones nationwide last year from its federal prisons.

Illinois prison officials, on the other hand, confiscated only five cellphones in 2010, data provided by the Illinois Department of Corrections show.

Stacey Solano, communications manager for the Illinois Department of Corrections, said she couldn’t explain the difference. She said Illinois’ numbers might be so low because of officials’ vigilance in searching prisoners, staff and visitors.

“We do everything we can within our power to make sure cellphones and other contraband don’t make it into our facilities,” Solano said.

The proliferation of cellphones in prisons can have dire consequences.

In South Carolina, an off-duty prison official was shot six times in the chest and stomach last year in his home. He survived the attack, which was ordered by an inmate using a smuggled cellphone.

A New Jersey inmate used a contraband cellphone last year to order the slaying of his former girlfriend in retaliation for her initial cooperation in a police investigation about him.

In Tennessee, a Nashville police officer was shot in 2009 by a man who had escaped from a Mississippi prison with the help of a cellphone.

via Cellphones don’t belong in these cells.

Man argues prison sentence is too light –

An Illinois man who pleaded guilty to murder has won a new trial by arguing that his 30-year prison sentence was too lenient.

Benny Deanda Jr.’s unusual legal argument in an appeal for a new trial is rare, but Deanda’s court-appointed attorney Levi Harris said Deanda wanted another trial so he could put on a self-defense case for the 2001 slaying, the Chicago Tribune reported Wednesday.

Full story here: Man argues prison sentence is too light –

Quinn’s new state budget proposal modifies plans for facility closures, layoffs

Gov. Pat Quinn is floating a retooled budget plan that could avert more than 1,900 layoffs and delay the closure of state facilities, including Logan Correctional Center.

As part of an 11th-hour budget agreement being brokered with lawmakers, Quinn would agree to close four state developmental centers and two mental health facilities within the next 2½ years, rather than shut down seven facilities next month.

With the clock ticking down on Thursday’s scheduled end of the fall veto session, House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, announced lawmakers would return Nov. 21 to try and wrap up any unfinished business.

Under the governor’s new proposal, the Department of Human Services would reduce the number of residents served by state-operated developmental centers by at least 600. That would allow the agency to close up to four of the state’s eight developmental centers by the summer of 2014.

An outline of the proposal did not identify which facilities, including a center in Dwight, may be on the future chopping block.

Read the full article here: Quinn’s new state budget proposal modifies plans for facility closures, layoffs.

Resolution could limit pay increases – AFSCME Council 31

Two new measures before the General Assembly could allow legislators to cap the wage increases a governor could agree to in contract negotiations. House Joint Resolution 45 and House Resolution 608 would also bar no-layoff agreements.

HJR 45 and HR 608 are widely perceived as an attack on state employees’ negotiated pay raises, which some legislators claim are too high in these tough economic times. But no other state contract, such as those with the state’s many vendors, would be subject to the same kind of legislative limits.

Two hearings before the House Revenue Committee have already been held and three more are scheduled. Council 31 Executive Director Henry Bayer testified (excerpt-PDF) at both of the hearings, stating AFSCME’s strong opposition to the constraints this measure would place on collective bargaining rights. He also presented the facts to put to rest claims that state employees are overpaid. The Illinois AFL-CIO, IFT, FOP, Laborers and SEIU joined in opposing the measure.

HJR 45 and HR 608 are sponsored by Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan. Republican House Minority Leader Tom Cross has introduced an amendment to make the measure even more onerous by barring any wage increase for state employees unless the state has had a budget surplus for two consecutive years. COGFA estimates indicate that if such a provision had been in place over the past decade, state employees would not have had any wage increase since 2002.

Click here for a fact sheet (PDF)

via Resolution could limit pay increases – AFSCME Council 31.

Panel nixes Quinn’s plan to close Logan prison, other facilities

A legislative panel gave a resounding thumb’s down Thursday to Gov. Pat Quinn’s plan to close Logan Correctional Center and two other state facilities.

The vote by the General Assembly’s Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability was almost a foregone conclusion after the governor’s office said Wednesday it was hopeful a budget deal could be worked out with lawmakers in the coming days that would keep the facilities open through at least the end of June.

Michael Gelder, a senior advisor to the governor, said the administration was already looking at a different facility closure process targeting four of the state’s eight developmental centers and two of four psychiatric hospitals over the next 2 ½ years.

“We’re prepared to move ahead,” Gelder told the bipartisan commission.

None of the state’s overcrowded prisons are being considered for closure in the governor’s revamped plan.

In September, Quinn announced a plan to close Logan, the youth prison in Murphysboro, the Chester Mental Health Center and four other facilities because of a shortfall in the state budget.

The panel earlier said “no” to closing Chester, Murphysboro, the Singer Mental Health Center in Rockford and the Mabley Developmental Center in Dixon.

On Thursday, similar opposition was voiced to Logan, the Jacksonville Developmental Center and the mental hospital in Tinley Park.

“I don’t see how you could possibly close Logan,” said state Rep. Michael Tryon, R-Crystal Lake, who said a plan to house the prisoners in the gymnasiums of other overcrowded prisons was an invitation to increased violence.

“I don’t even know why this is on the list,” added state Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, D-Evanston.

The panel voted 9-2 against Quinn’s plan for Logan

Read the full story here: Panel nixes Quinn’s plan to close Logan prison, other facilities.

Ohio voters stand with public employees and their unions – AFSCME Council 31

Ohio Gov. John Kasich got a kick in the teeth from voters who soundly rejected his assault on middle class jobs, voting 62 percent to 38 percent for repealing his bill that was designed to destroy collective bargaining rights for public employees.

The overwhelming “no” vote on the referendum measure, officially Issue 2 on Nov. 8 Ohio ballots, repealed the Kasich-backed SB 5.

Among other toxic features, the law would have permitted workers to negotiate wages but not pensions or health care benefits, banned public-worker strikes, scrapped binding arbitration and eliminated annual raises for teachers.

Teachers, bus drivers, firefighters, corrections officers, police officers, social service workers, nurses and other public employees were joined by construction workers, bakery workers and all kinds of private-sector workers, in a coalition that came together to fight for the survival of the middle class. AFSCME members played a key role in the movement, which began with collecting nearly 1 million petition signatures, triple the number needed to get the repeal measure on the ballot.

Anti-worker politicians like Ohio’s Gov. Kasich have been using the economic crisis to push a cynical political agenda to build the power of the nation’s richest 1 percent at the expense of the 99 percent. Ohio voters rejected that agenda.

“This vote sends a message to politicians who side with the richest 1 percent,” AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Henry Bayer said. “They will find that working people who want America to work for everyone are going fight back and hold them accountable.”

Click here to view a video about the victory.

via Ohio voters stand with public employees and their unions – AFSCME Council 31.

BBC News – Police find girls, drugs and fighting cocks in Acapulco jail

Some people think, sometimes justifiably, that certain prisons can be too lax on inmates. But this story from the BBC makes our prisons look really tough!

Police in Acapulco in south-west Mexico have found inmates in possession of 100 flat screen televisions, as well as DVD players, fighting roosters and two sacks of cannabis.

They said they also found 25 women living in the men’s section of the prison – six were inmates, while 19 were described as illegal residents and alleged in media reports to be prostitutes.

The director of the prison, chief of security and some guards have been fired.

Video can be found here: BBC News – Police find girls, drugs and fighting cocks in Acapulco jail.

Increased Contributions to Illinois Pension System « CBS St. Louis

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (IRN/KMOX) – It has been one of the most contentious issues in Springfield for years – how does the state pay down its unfunded pension liability? Lawmakers Tuesday night sent a pension overhaul to the House floor for a vote.

The state is $85 billion behind in funding its pension system. This measure would increase contribution requirements from current employees receiving “Tier I” benefits from 9 percent of their paychecks to 13, and could rise only as high as 15 percent after a three-year adjustment period. Previous legislation had no limits on how much that contribution level could rise.

Future state employees wouldn’t be eligible for this package, and would pay 6 percent for lesser benefits or opt for a 401(k)-style plan. State Rep. Darlene Senger (R-Naperville) says the plan saves money, and is fed up with hearing about how it’s being rushed.

“I haven’t heard anyone else come in and save a dollar here,” she says. “Again, we could do this until we’re blue in the face. We sat and worked with a lot of you this summer but no one brought ideas to the table. So I’m voting yes.”

Opponents pointed to what they say is a big flaw in the bill: it doesn’t require the state to make its actuarially required payment every year. Henry Bayer, executive director of AFSCME Council 31, says that’s a key component of paying down the $85 billion liability. “There’s nothing in this law that requires the state to make the actuarially required contribution,” says Bayer. “If there is, why don’t we state it?”

The measure’s sponsor, House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) responded that the state will gradually pay down the unfunded liability from its general revenue fund.

The measure passed 5-4 out of committee.

via Increased Contributions to Illinois Pension System « CBS St. Louis.

Some state lawmakers suggest a wage freeze – WJBC – The Voice of Central Illinois

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois House Republicans say the house speaker has a good idea in getting lawmakers involved in state workers’ salaries and labor negotiations – and they want to go further.

Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) and one of his deputies are suggesting a wage freeze until the state can maintain a surplus for two consecutive years.

“It’s a reasonable and respectful call on all of us involved in state government to do all that we can to pay our bills and to restore the financial health of this state,” said State Rep. David Leitch (R-Peoria).

Leitch points out that lawmakers are taking furlough days, as some state workers are being forced to do.

Labor unions have a differing viewpoint.

“The underlying concept here is that the problems with the state’s budget have been caused by … people who care for the disabled or the elderly; people who provide food stamps or keep our prisons safe,” said Anders Lindall, spokesman for AFSCME Council 31, the largest state employees’ union in Illinois.

“That’s just not credible.”

Lindall said the real problem is on the revenue end, particularly with tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. Lindall said the employees AFSCME represent make about 5 percent of the state budget, and a 3 percent raise for those people amounts to 0.15 percent of the state budget.

Lawmakers return to Springfield to continue the fall Veto Session on Tuesday.

via Some state lawmakers suggest a wage freeze – WJBC – The Voice of Central Illinois.