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WJBD - Local News - State Treasurer Rutherford Weighs In on State Closures

State Treasurer Dan Rutherford addressed the issues on state facility closures at Wednesday's press conference Wednesday in Springfield. Submitted Photo.

State Treasurer Rutherford Weighs In on State Closures

By Will Doolin, WJBD News

State Treasurer Dan Rutherford wasted no time weighing on the issue of Governor Pat Quinn closing several state facilities in Southern Illinois.  Rutherford addressed those in attendance at Wednesday's press conference regarding the closures in the Capitol.  

He states he has visited the Murray Center and states it does fulfill a mission within a complete system of service needs.  “I care about the economics of Centralia, southern Illinois, Tamms and Dwight, but that is not a reason to keep a facility open.  It is fulfilling the need and the objective of the purpose it has brought as an asset of the people”, said Rutherford.  

He states Tamms and Dwight Correctional Centers exist because there is a 147-percent overcrowding situation within the state's prison system.  

Rutherford says Governor Quinn did not veto this to save money, but rather spend the money in other areas.  However the money cannot be spent on other programs because the money was specifically allocated for the facilities that are up for closure.  “The governor specifically line-itemed and vetoed this and then later said he wanted to go spend the money someplace else.  This isn't about saving money, and the program he may want to spend money on might have some merit, but it needs to be looked at and considered.  This process was put into place because these facilities fulfill a mission and they are being closed with no long-term strategic plan in place”, said Rutherford.  

Rutherford stated that this took place before with the closure of the Sheridan Correctional Center with no long-term plan in place, which affected the community and surrounding region.  Two years later, the facility was turned into a drug-rehab center within corrections and is currently doing well.  He states if they planned it instead of having a two-year gap, the issue wouldn't be as big as it is today.

“If Murray Center, Tamms, Dwight, any other asset is not meeting its mission, then let us strategically plan where we go with it so you don't have an example of a two-year void like what happened at Sheridan”, said Rutherford.  Rutherford believes there is a lot more to these closures, in particular to Tamms with regards to punishment and treatment of prisoners.  He state Tamms was designed for the worst criminals in the state to go to.  

Rutherford stated he does not support the Governor's veto and urged lawmakers to override the Governor's veto during the last day of the fall veto session, saying closing prisons and other state facilities is not the answer, and a long-term strategic plan needs to be in place for all major facilities.  

Last week the Senate voted to reject cuts of $56 million of funds for the facilities.  However the House didn't consider an override vote before adjourning the session.  A spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan says the Speaker didn't think it was necessary action to take.  Governor Quinn called it a victory for the taxpayers of Illinois.

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