Economic group studies prison closure – WJBC – The Voice of Central Illinois

The Greater Livingston County Economic Development Council is assessing the economic impact of closing the Dwight Correctional Center.

The GLCEDC executive Director Larry Vaupel says if the prison closes, it would be a $40 million hit to the local economy.

“That has a ripple effect. It is not just the people that work at the prison, but the people who work at the restaurants, gas stations, municipalities, school districts and the construction industry, as well. It has a ripple effect through the economy,” said Vaupel.

Vaupel says Livingston County officials are partnering with Kankakee and Grundy Counties in the fight to save the prison.

via Economic group studies prison closure – WJBC – The Voice of Central Illinois.

Supporters rally for Dwight prison –

Dwight Correctional Center employee Kathy Kissiar never imagined Monday’s scene.

Not in Dwight.

About 800 people nearly filled the Dwight High School gymnasium bleachers in a rally to save the village’s prison. On Feb. 22, Gov. Pat Quinn proposed to close the 81-year old facility to save $37.3 million annually in the state budget.

State senators Shane Cultra and Sue Rezin, state representatives Jason Barickman and Pam Roth, Dwight Mayor Bill Wilkey — as well as city officials and union leaders — spoke to those in attendance and encouraged them they would fight to keep the prison open.

“We’ve been through this before with Stateville, Logan, Sheridan and Pontiac,” said Kissiar, who sat at the front table with petitions. “Never did I think Dwight would end up on that list. It’s such a unique facility.”

Illinois’ lone maximum security prison for women houses 980 inmates and employs 359 people. The facility possesses the state’s Reception and Classification Center and serves as the state’s writ center, housing female inmates from Decatur and Lincoln when they have court appearances.

Dwight City Administrator Kevin McNamara said Monday the economic impact of closing the prison would be widespread.

The Greater Livingston County Economic Development Council commissioned an economic impact study and found the closure could mean a loss of an estimated $40 million to the Dwight area.

“This is not a village of Dwight issue,” said Larry Vaupel with the Greater Livingston County Economic Development Council. “This is an issue that has tremendous ripple effects to the economy through Livingston, Grundy and Kankakee counties.”

Of its 359 employees, 59 are from Dwight, 55 from Bradley, Bourbonnais or Kankakee, 44 from Streator, 39 from Pontiac and 19 from Cook County.

Anthony Starkey is one of 44 employees from Streator who does not want to lose the 15 years he put into working at Dwight.

“I’ve invested a lot for me and my family,” Starkey said.”You never want to have to start at ground zero somewhere else. There are a lot of others in Streator here who are thinking the same thing.”

Cultra referred to the rally as a deja vu of sorts, remembering past proposals to close Pontiac Correctional Center, but cited a crucial difference between the Dwight proposal and the one to close Pontiac three years earlier.

Since then, the Facility Closure Act has been put in place with an economic impact study.

“Our case has to be made economically,” Cultra said. “You look at the fiscal shape the state is in, we have to cut, but where is the most prudent place to cut?”

Staffing levels at Dwight are listed as seven inmates to every employee, Cultra said, where other facilities across the state average are 12 to 1.

Statistics presented showed 60 percent of inmates hail from Cook County, meaning transfers downstate would be more costly and difficult on visitors.

“From an economic standpoint, we have some good facts here to present to the rest of our legislators, the governor and his staff,” Cultra said. “And we can say, ‘You know what, you’re not going to save much money closing Dwight. In fact, I don’t think you’ll save any money.'”

Those in attendance were reminded the closure is still a proposal and will be reviewed by the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability sometime in early May — when the advisory committee will hold a hearing in Dwight and vote on a recommendation. This will occur just as the General Assembly meets to begin budget talks.

Until then, Wilkey said the No. 1 priority is to get Dwight prison back in into the budget. A vote from 60 representatives and 30 senators will be needed to allocate the funds to keep Dwight open.

“Our goal tonight is to let you know that we’re not just sitting by and thinking this is just politics and they won’t close the prison,” Wilkey said. “We’re doing what we can to fight.”

Those in attendance were encouraged to contact the governor’s office, members of the Illinois Senate Appropriations Committee and CoGFA.

“You are the most important person in this right now,” said Dan Dunlap, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1133 president. ” … Together we can keep Dwight open.”

By The Numbers

The Dwight Correctional Center employs 359 American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Here is the breakdown geographically:


142 from Livingston

76 from Kankakee

60 from La Salle

21 from Grundy

19 from Cook


59 from Dwight

55 from Bradley-Bourbonnais or Kankakee

44 from Streator

39 from Pontiac

via Supporters rally for Dwight prison –

Prison supporters fill high school gym – WJBC – The Voice of Central Illinois

About 600 people packed the Dwight Township High School gymnasium on Monday night to show support for the Dwight Correctional Center.

The informational meeting on the fight to save the prison from closing featured economic development officials and leaders at the state, county and municipal levels. Those attending were encouraged to write to Gov. Pat Quinn, Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon and other state officials to keep the facility open.

Dwight Mayor Bill Wilkey said the meeting was organized to inform residents of the effort.

“I don’t want them putting their houses up for sale and everything. It is serious and we are going to work hard. I think we can win this battle,” said Wilkey.

Village Administrator Kevin McNamera urges people to communicate positively.

“Just remember in all of your correspondence to please be civil. If you are on Facebook, Twitter or whatever, be positive and polite. Your letters are reflecting the village of Dwight,” said McNamera.

Luella Flynn of Toluca worked at the Dwight prison for 20 years and questions how the state will save money by closing Dwight.

“I am concerned about my fellow co-workers. Their jobs are important to me,” said Flynn.

An informational picket is planned for March 15 from 1 to 5 p.m. outside the Dwight Correctional Center and an official closure hearing is expected at a later date, with a panel of state lawmakers. That hearing will likely take place in the Dwight Township High School gymnasium.

via Prison supporters fill high school gym – WJBC – The Voice of Central Illinois.

Report: Closing Dwight Correctional Center could cost area $45M

The region could take a $45 million hit if Dwight Correctional Center were closed, according to a preliminary report from the Greater Livingston County Economic Development Council.

Gov. Pat Quinn announced the Aug. 31 closure last month. The state’s only maximum-security prison for women employs 353 people and is among 59 state facilities targeted for closure as a way to cut the budget.

Council CEO Larry Vaupel said another 375 jobs could be affected indirectly in Livingston, Grundy and Kankakee counties, although most of the impact would be felt in Livingston County.

“The ripple effect in this case is pretty dramatic,” he said. “It’s about one job lost elsewhere for every job lost at the prison and that is one of the highest ratios I have ever seen of jobs affected. But it’s because we are a rural county. Counties with a bigger population, such as Will County, can absorb the hit much easier.”

Community leaders have vowed to fight the proposed closure. Former Pontiac Mayor Scott McCoy, who also is running for a General Assembly seat, is a member of an executive committee of community leaders to coordinate efforts to fight the plan.

“Just like when we went through this in Pontiac, this affects all of us,” he said, referring to a failed plan of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich to close Pontiac Correctional Center.

The council has retained the services of Northern Illinois University Center of Governmental Services to conduct the official economic impact analysis. The report is due later this week.

“They will use a different kind of modeling software, but I don’t expect the numbers to be much different,” he said.

Vaupel said job losses could include construction jobs (73), retail trade jobs (46), health care and social assistance jobs (48), local government (35) and accommodation and food services (33), among others.

“You can get a sense of just how deep and wide this could be,” he said. “If this prison were to close, it would affect virtually every industry out there in some way.”

via Report: Closing Dwight Correctional Center could cost area $45M.

No Quinn

Opposition is mounting against Governor Pat Quinn as he announced he would close several state developmental centers, cut disability services and mental health care, and release prison inmates early. Quinn’s plan would also eliminate 3,000 jobs.

In response to this, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31 is launching a “No Quinn Cuts” campaign. Spokesperson Anders Lindall says they represent about 41,000 workers in the state of Illinois, and says Governor Quinn’s priorities of the state is upside down. “He’s cutting public safety, health care, public services, and wiping out thousands of good jobs. At the same time, he’s handing out big tax breaks to corporations. That’s wrong, people in Illinois don’t agree with it. We’ve launched a website, We’ve got a Facebook page, we’ve got a petition at that folks can sign to let Pat Quinn know that they oppose his harmful budget plan”, said Lindall.

Lindell states this cause will benefit the Murray Center in Centralia, one of the state facilities Quinn has listed for closure. He says the local officials at the Murray Center are already working hard to reach out to community leaders and local officials, as well as community organizations working closely with the families of the Murray Center to provide services to them. “Those programs are not available anywhere else in the region, and they can’t be found in private, so-called, community placements, where Pat Quinn wants to force them to go. We’re fighting to save the Murray Center and a similar facility in Jacksonville, the Jacksonville Developmental Center, right along with mental health hospitals, youth centers, state police, human services offices, and prisons statewide, and the jobs of those thousands of men and women who do the real work of state government to provide those services”, said Lindall.

He states the real work of state government is not done in Springfield or Chicago, but in the facilities caring for people, and providing public services to the people of Illinois.

Lindall says the campaign’s initial steps include a petition for concerned citizens to sign and personalize with their own reasons for opposing Quinn’s budget cuts at Their Facebook page is located at You can listen to a statewide program of radio ads that began airing Friday morning on their website at

via WJBD Radio.

Community Takes Action to Save Prison from State Closure

Minute by minute, day by day, people in Dwight are one step closer to saving their prison.

“It’s overwhelming the support we’ve received from the community, the county and surrounding community as well,” said Dan Dunlap.

Dunlap is a corrections officer at Dwight prison.

He’s one of several union members, spreading the word about the proposed facility closure.

“We went with green and white because it is the Dwight High School colors. Thought it would be a little more popular maybe we could get some of the younger kids involved,” explained Dunlap.

But his main goal is making the fight to save Dwight loud and clear.

“Keep the community involved, get them active, get them out there to help this because we do need their help to win this fight.”

Signs are being printed at a local company in Pontiac.

The owners have already placed a large banner outside their shop.

“I hope it saves the prison,” said owner Mark Mehrkens. “Makes people aware when they drive around and see that many signs.”

Orders for T-shirts protesting the prison closure are also being filled out at the village hall.

“Our community is well known for binding together and helping each other out,” said Village Board Member Jared Anderson. “Take it step by step, be aggressive.”

Prison employees say at the end of the day, it’s people’s involvement that could save their jobs, and the community.

“Just to promote it, get people aware that might just be passing by,” said Dunlap.

“Save Dwight Correctional”

A rally protesting the prison closure is planned for Monday night at 6 pm at Dwight Township High School.

Everyone is encouraged to attend.

via Community Takes Action to Save Prison from State Closure.

Dwight leaders gear up for battle

Gov. Pat Quinn, put up your dukes.

State and local leaders say they’re prepared to fight for Dwight Correctional Center and the 340-plus people it employs.

Quinn announced last week that he plans to close the facility and move its approximate 1,000 inmates to Logan Prison in Lincoln in an effort to save the state about $37 million annually.

Local and state leaders reacted with concern for the economic health of Dwight and Livingston County area and for the already overcrowded prison system, while state lawmakers speculated that the proposal could actually be “leverage” for future budget negotiations.

Dwight Correctional Center opened in 1930 and is the only maximum security women’s prison in the state, as well as starting point for every female inmate in the corrections system where they are processed into the system.

The governor’s plan would shut the facility by Aug. 31.

“The governor has a pattern of announcing closures as a way to provide himself leverage for other areas of the budget,” said State Rep. Jason Barickman, a Champaign Republican.

Regardless of intent, area leaders are taking the threat seriously.
About 35 local Dwight, Pontiac and county leaders, state

lawmakers, and AFSCME union representatives met Friday morning at the Livingston County Safety Complex in Ponti- ac to discuss how to fight the governor’s proposal.

Led by Barickman, they stressed unity in the process – which includes an investigation by a bi-partisan legislative committee which will agree or disagree with the governor’s proposal – that will play out in the coming weeks.

Everybody remain calm

Now’s not the time to panic, say lawmakers and area lead- ers who have fought prison closings in the past.

In Pontiac, “for sale” signs cropped up in front of homes throughout the community in 2008 when then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich threatened to shut down Pontiac Correctional Center.

Some Pontiac prison employees – fearing the impending closure – sought transfers elsewhere, sold their homes and moved, said Pontiac Mayor Bob Russell. When the facility didn’t close, some moved back to Pontiac and had to buy a new home.

“They panicked, and the last thing you want to do right now is panic,” Russell said. “Right now things are very preliminary. I wouldn’t overreact. We’ve heard the same thing a

couple of times now and hopefully calmer heads will pre- vail.”

It’s just a proposal

The governor’s proposed budget typically differs dramat- ically from the finished product, said leaders who attended Friday’s meeting.

“It’s the beginning of the budget battle,” said Larry Vaupel, CEO of the Greater Livingston County Economic Development Council. “It starts with his proposal and what ends up getting approved is usually much different than what the governor proposes.”

In fact, last year lawmakers didn’t even start with the governor’s budget, they began building their own, said Rep. Pam Roth, a Morris Republican.

Each year, the governor states his case and lawmakers wrangle until everybody comes up with a compromise.

“This is simply a proposal, but we take it very seriously because it’s the governor who’s making that proposal,” Bar- ickman said. “We remind people that there’s a legal process that needs to be followed.”

In the coming weeks

There’s a specific legal process that must take place once a state facility closure has been announced.

It begins with a notice filed with the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA), a bi- partisan committee that holds hearings and issues an opinion on whether a facility should be closed.

Once that happens, there’s 90 days to complete an inves- tigative process that includes public comment and public hearings followed by a recommendation by COGFA to the governor whether it believes closing the facility is best.

As of Friday, that initial notice that starts the 90-day clock had not been filed.

Once the initial notice is filed and the clock begins ticking, COGFA has 10 days to request a formal recommendation that requires the governor explain his plan – including the number of people affected, details about where the inmates would be relocated, the economic impact to the existing communities and so forth.

The governor’s office has 30 days to gather this information and return it to COGFA.

Once the state’s formal recommendation is filed, a 30-day public comment begins and will include a public hearing in Dwight regarding the impact of such a closure.

Following the public comment period, COGFA has 20 days to make a recommendation. The recommendation is merely advisory.

Final decision rests with lawmakers

Ultimately, though, the final decision boils down to state lawmakers who will cast the votes in favor or against fund- ing the facility.

An appropriations committee is in charge of adding line items to the budget. That committee will soon begin hearings on the various state agency budgets. The department of corrections director will go before the committee and request funding for the facility.

The budget must be passed by lawmakers in both the house and the senate.

The governor can veto a budget line item that includes funding for Dwight Correctional Center. Lawmakers can override his veto with a majority vote in both the house and senate.

Appealing to lawmakers beyond those locally will be an important component to the upcoming fight as well as the focus of future discussions as local leaders work on a clear and unified message, they said Friday.

‘More difficult than Pontiac’

While Dwight officials may be able to take a page from Pontiac’s playbook regarding how to unite the community and rally for its prison, the playing field looks much different.

Several leaders at Friday’s meeting agreed that the fight for Dwight could be even more difficult.

Blagojevich’s proposal to close Pontiac lacked any real detail about where those inmates would go and the consequent cost savings, union leaders said.

Additionally, Pontiac Correctional Center had already received funding when Blagojevich proposed its closure, they said.

The Dwight facility just won’t exist in the governor’s budget.

That means lawmakers will need to add a line item to fund it, said Rep. Pam Roth.

With numerous proposed facility closures spread through- out the state, garnering enough support from other lawmak- ers who will be lobbying for their own local facilities – it may make this fight more difficult, she said.

Regardless, the governor’s proposed budget remains just that – proposed, Barickman said.

“That doesn’t mean we don’t take it seriously,” he said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to happen either.”



‘Save Dwight Correctional’ Rally Set for Monday :: Illinois House Republicans

State Representative Jason Barickman (R-Champaign) has announced that a public rally will be held in Dwight on Monday, March 5th to discuss plans and lay out a community strategy aimed at saving Dwight Correctional Center.

“We want to provide the public, the community and all those involved with the necessary information to get our message out about how important Dwight prison is to the local area,” said Rep. Barickman. “We are going to build a public outcry of just how bad of decision the Governor is making with this proposed closure. The people of Dwight, Livingston County and all the surrounding areas are going to be vocal and outspoken in their support of the facility, and the 350 employees and their families who count on these jobs.”

The rally to save Dwight Correctional Center is scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m. on Monday, March 5th at the Dwight Township High School gymnasium located at 801 South Franklin St. in Dwight. Anyone who may have questions regarding Governor Quinn’s proposed closure or anyone who wants to join the effort to keep Dwight Correctional Center open is encouraged to attend.

Representative Barickman and Senator Cultra will be in attendance to provide an update of the closure process, the Department of Corrections budgeting procedures, and answer any questions the public may have in relation to the proposed closure. Dwight Mayor Bill Wilkey will open the rally with the potential effects on the local community. Larry Vaupel of the Greater Livingston County Economic Development Council and Nancy Ammer of the Grundy County Economic Development Council will discuss economic impacts of such a closure, and Dan Dunlap (president of AFSCME Local 1133) and Joe Pluger will speak to the effects on prison employees. There will be time allocated after the speakers’ remarks for public comments and questions.

‘Save Dwight Correctional Center’ petitions are available through Rep. Barickman’s website,, or at this district office located at 224 North Main St. in Pontiac. Petitions will also be handed out at the rally.

Anyone who has questions about the rally or the closure is encouraged to contact Rep. Barickman’s office by phone at (815) 844-4642 or email at Regular updates on outreach opportunities, ‘Save Dwight’ events, and other ‘Save Dwight’ activities can be found at the ‘Save Dwight Correctional Center’ facebook page or by signing up to receive Representative Barickman’s email newsletter at his website.

For those who may not be able to attend, the public rally will be streamed live and video of the gathering can be watched at

via ‘Save Dwight Correctional’ Rally Set for Monday :: Illinois House Republicans.

APNewsBreak: Quinn officials struggle to explain numbers on prison plan, parole officers | The Republic

Gov. Pat Quinn wants to make big changes to the Illinois corrections system, including greater use of parole supervision for low-level offenders. But his administration is struggling to explain how it can do that safely while also cutting back on traditional on-the-streets scrutiny of ex-convicts.

An Associated Press analysis of administration budget documents shows a drop of about 150 positions in the parole division, or potentially a reduction of more than one-third, a number the Corrections Department refuses to confirm or refute.

Quinn’s proposed budget shows that spending on parolee monitoring would decline by $26 million and the number of employee positions would be reduced by 281. But it’s not clear if that’s all parole workers or includes other employees. Comparing that number with other staffing figures, the AP arrived at 148 planned reductions.

Asked for explanations this week, Corrections issued varying statements: First, that no one would be laid off and the budget documents might need to be corrected; then that some field jobs would be eliminated; then that parole “services” would not be cut but without any guarantees on how many employees would provide them; and finally that attrition would play a role in headcount reduction.

“While the figures in the budget book may be confusing in regard to the parole monitoring headcount, the department is not reducing parole functions — we are reorganizing the division,” Corrections spokeswoman Stacey Solano said.

The changes would be part of a 9 percent cut to the $1.2 billion prison system Quinn proposes in the fiscal year that begins in July. He would close two maximum-security prisons and six “adult transition centers” which help inmates nearing completion of sentences get ready to re-enter communities.

But there are already far more inmates than there is bed space in the state’s prisons, so the 1,100 residents of those work-release centers would largely be released and fitted with electronic monitoring bracelets, increasing workloads for parole officers and, some fear, reducing opportunities for ex-offenders to get schooling or drug-abuse treatment.

via APNewsBreak: Quinn officials struggle to explain numbers on prison plan, parole officers | The Republic.

Rally to save Dwight prison set for Monday

A community meeting in Dwight on Monday will be the next in a series of steps to formulate a plan to save the Dwight Correctional Center from closure.

“It’s important that the whole community rally behind these efforts to save the prison,” Dwight Village President Bill Wilkey said of the meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Dwight High School gymnasium. “We have to show Gov. Quinn and the legislature in Springfield that our community will fight for the Dwight Correctional Center.”

Last week, Gov. Pat Quinn announced that the state’s only maximum-security prison for women, which houses approximately 1,000 inmates and employs more than 340 people, would be among 59 state facilities targeted for closure as a way to cut the budget.

“The community needs to know that the prison is open and we’re going to fight to keep it open,” said Dan Dunlap, a corrections officer at the prison and president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1133.

Dozens of community leaders and lawmakers gathered Friday in Pontiac to discuss how to save the prison, which is scheduled to close Aug. 31.

“We are at the beginning of a very long path that Livingston County has already walked down twice,” said State Sen. Shane Cultra. R-Onarga, referring to previous, aborted efforts to close Pontiac Correctional Center.

“The citizens of Livingston County deserve better than to be brought through the emotional strain of yet another closure process.”

Once the governor’s office files an official closure notice, the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability is required to hold a public forum to allow the community to voice opinions on the proposed plan. The commission then would make a nonbinding recommendation to the governor’s office.

The final decision rests with Quinn.

Read More: Rally to save Dwight prison set for Monday.