Letters to the Editor

Guest view: Illinois Department of Corrections is in dire need of budget action

Despite the lack of a balanced state budget, the Illinois Department of Corrections has done its best to weather the storm, but we are now on the precipice of real issues that could lead to lasting consequences.

Reports the Majority Party may not take substantive action on a balanced budget and reforms until after the election means it is essential they pass a fully-funded, six-month stopgap budget to ensure operations continue.

Without a budget, Corrections will be hard pressed to continue with critical reforms that improve operations and outcomes, increase safety, and enhance programs aimed at helping offenders be successful once they return to communities across this state. Furthermore, we will be severely challenged to meet our legal obligation to provide constitutionally adequate care to the men and women in our custody who have been diagnosed with mental illness. Lack of a balanced budget or stopgap will impact the department’s ability to feed offenders, keep the lights on, the water running, and fulfill other day-to-day duties. Our vendors, including many mom and pop businesses that provide food supplies, fire equipment examination services, building repair parts, and maintenance services, depend on our payments. These local businesses will continue to suffer without payment and will eventually have to pull their services. That could cripple the department in a matter of days.

Our staff work tirelessly each and every day to protect the people of Illinois and keep our prisons safe. They deserve the peace of mind that comes with knowing they will be compensated for their work.

This reckless lack of action must end. I am asking Rep. Eddie Lee Jackson, Sen. James Clayborne, and all other members of the Democratic majority to stand up to their leaders in the legislature and pass a balanced budget with reforms that will help the overall financial health of our state. However, if they continue to refuse to work with the governor, they must pass a paid-for, short-term budget that will keep our prisons open and help us pay our bills. Our corrections system depends on it.