Posted Online: Dec. 04, 2012, 8:49 pm

EM Correctional Center pays $3M in overtime, not getting any new officers

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By Stephen Elliott,

The East Moline Correctional Center is paying nearly $3 million in overtime costs this year, and is understaffed, overcrowded and experiencing more inmate violence, according to a spokesman for the correctional officers.

Greg Johnson, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 4, which represents prison workers, said the state will graduate a class of 140 new correctional officers in February, but none are scheduled to move to EMCC.

"We have made it clear to management, we need plenty more bodies," Mr. Johnson said. "There are a lot more incidents of inmates fighting. We have more fights every week, because our segregation unit is so full, the inmates know there is no way we can punish them for their actions.

"We have no where to send them. They're becoming increasingly aggressive toward our staff, and in particular, toward our female staff," he said.

"The state doesn't respond to any of our emails," Mr. Johnson said. "The department is too busy sending out propaganda."

Talk of overcrowding has been an issue at EMCC for years.

Mr. Johnson said prison closings will mean more medium security inmates will be transferred to the minimum-security EMCC, which isn't designed to hold so many violent offenders.

"So, we'll get more bad apples," he said.

It comes at a time when Gov. Pat Quinn is trying to close two youth centers in Murphysboro and Joliet, along with the female Dwight Correctional Center and the super-maximum security Tamms Correctional Center in southern Illinois.

Last week, the Illinois Senate voted 35-16 to override the governor's $56 million in cuts to the Department of Corrections (DOC). In June, Gov. Quinn said the cost of operating Tamms was $62,000 per inmate per fiscal year, about three times the statewide cost for other DOC facilities.

Earlier this year, Gov. Quinn said the Dwight Correctional Center needs substantial repairs and the DOC had seen a 41 percent decrease in the number of female prison admissions, reducing the department's need to maintain a female prison.

Illinois Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, voted last week to override the governor's cuts. He said Tuesday that he's concerned about overcrowding and understaffing at EMCC.

"It's something I'll speak personally to Gov. Quinn about," Sen. Jacobs said. "We have to be careful this doesn't lead to more (prison) violence.

"We had an incident in July where a guard was attacked and radioed for assistance," he said. "It took five minutes to respond. Five minutes is a lifetime for a guard in prison.We have to make sure there are enough guards. That's what we'll be fighting for."

Outgoing Illinois state Rep. Rich Morthland, R-Cordova, said he's opposed to the governor closing Tamms and other prison cuts.

"The governor is playing very fast and very loose with the facts when he's talking about Tamms prison and the reasons for closing it," Rep. Morthland said. "You're considering people with multiple murder convictions who wouldn't mind killing another guard just to break the boredom.

He said he toured EMCC and "was frankly extremely surprised at the prisoner-to-guard situation. "It surprised me there were so many prisoners to the number of guards."

Illinois State Rep. Pat Verschoore, D-Milan, agreed that the EMCC needs more staff."I hope we don't have an incident up there."

Mr. Johnson said EMCC has about 153 correctional officers, 12 correctional officer trainees and 1,420 inmates. He said the facility needs about 30 more correctional officers.

On Nov. 21, IDOC spokeswoman Stacy Solano said EMCC received 12 new correctional officers from another recent cadet class, and that should help reduce overtime costs.

"The department will continue to use its available resources to the best of its abilities as managing safe and secure facilities is the department's top priority," Ms. Solano said.

But, Mr. Johnson said the EMCC is seeing more tension, with an inmate threatening another correctional officer on Tuesday.

"We're down to six sergeants where we should have a minimum of 12," he said. "We're bursting at the seams right now. There's a lot of overtime, and command staff is getting incredibly short.

"I don't know if Gov. Quinn and his people see anything in a reasonable sense. I'm just not sure they do."