A Southern Illinois judge has agreed to extend a halt of the transfer of inmates from the supermax Tamms Correctional Center until Aug. 31, according to a written statement issued today by the union representing prison guards that opposes closure of the lockup.
Union County Judge Charles Cavaness agreed to the extension of the transfer halt, which was agreed to by attorneys for the state and the union. This will allow both sides to attend a second day of meeting with a certified arbitrator, who is gathering information to assist the judge in ruling.
Cavaness set the next court hearing in the case for Aug. 31.
Gov. Pat Quinn has ordered that Tamms, in the southernmost tip of Illinois, be closed on Aug. 31. Quinn said the state can safely transfer the relatively small number of Tamms prisoners to other prisons and save the state at least $26 million a year. At least a dozen inmates were transferred until the process was halted.
The union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, opposes the closure of Tamms and other state lockups including a women's prison at Dwight.
Anders Lindall, union spokesperson, has said that closing Tamms, where inmates are held in continuous solitary confinement for years, will remove a deterrent to violence. Human rights activists have long contended that the prison, which usually holds fewer than 200 inmates, is costly and violates human rights.
The Illinois Department of Corrections has provided data concerning the level of assaults on guards by inmates that shows a small overall reduction in the level of attacks at two of the state's three other maximum security prisons.
The exception is the Menard Correctional Center, where the rate has increased. However, most of the time inmates at Menard are on lockdown, meaning they don't leave their cells except for about an hour each day. The assault rate at Menard is a fraction of the rate at the other maximum security prisons, Stateville and Pontiac.