Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn should abandon his plan to close five correctional facilities in the state in an effort, he says, to save money.
The closings, temporarily halted by a judge’s order earlier this month, will put both the employees who oversee the prisons and the public at risk without making significant changes in the state’s long-term expenditures.
If Quinn really wants to cut costs, he should eliminate personnel and close redundant state offices. Putting an end to non-essential state programs would help, too. But since all of those are prime sources of patronage jobs Quinn and other leaders control, that’s not likely to happen soon.
Instead, Quinn thinks it’s a good idea to close prisons and move about 5,000 inmates — including the state’s most dangerous ones — to other sites.
According to the Associated Press, Illinois prisons are designed to hold 33,700 inmates. Earlier this month, the state reached a record 49,154 behind bars.
Most prisons already hold more inmates than their original design intended. For example, the Danville Correctional Center was designed for 896 inmates. It now holds almost 1,900.
The state spends $17,014 on average per year per inmate. It makes more sense to look at sentencing guidelines — especially for minor, non-violent crimes — as a way to relieve pressure on the system and cut costs.
Simply stuffing more people into fewer prisons won’t do much other than lead to dangerous situations for all involved.