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Reporters Allowed To Tour Vandalia Correctional Center

VANDALIA, Ill. (AP) - Journalists have been allowed to tour the Vandalia Correctional Center, a prison that a watchdog group had found to be overcrowded and plagued by squalid conditions.

According to the (Decatur) Herald & Review, reporters visiting the minimum-security Vandalia Correctional Center on Friday were given a close look at the facility's vocational programs. The Vocational Program Coordinator Kathleen Mattingly noted 71 percent of the inmates are enrolled in educational or vocational programs. Those programs include auto body repair, construction occupations and gardening. A welding program and a program to have inmates work with retired racehorses are planned.

Prison officials say the priority is to keep inmates learning and working in hopes they don't return to prison once they are out. So far they have been able to maintain the work experience programs at Vandalia and even expand them despite budget constraints.

Gov. Pat Quinn is closing two Illinois prisons that he says are too costly to operate, prompting an outcry from prison workers that doing so will worsen the state prison system's already severe overcrowding.

The independent prison watchdog group The John Howard Association visited Vandalia in 2011 and reported, in some cases, squalid conditions.

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