State Rep. Jerry Costello II (D-Smithton) and Sen. Dave Luechtefeld (R-Okawville) are speaking out about Tuesday’s attacks on one correctional officer and two staff members, one of whom was the facility chaplain, at Menard Correctional Center in Chester.
“These attacks are just the latest example of what has become a pattern at IDOC. Once again, two members of the correctional staff and a clergyman paid the price for Governor Quinn’s misguided decision to close Tamms Correctional Center,” commented Costello. “Clearly, these prisons are overcrowded and understaffed, and as we warned, this imbalance is having disastrous consequences.”
Luechtefeld also placed the responsibility for an apparent uptick in prison violence at the feet of the governor, saying, “It is apparent that there are issues with the senior administrators at IDOC, which have to be addressed. The recent attacks should prompt the Governor to get more involved in what are becoming daily attacks on our front-line staff. The Governor’s decision to close Tamms Correctional Center was completely wrong and should not have occurred.”
In just the last month, a partial list of incidents includes:
- Staff assault at Jacksonville Corrections;
- Staff assault at Pinckneyville Corrections;
- Inmate suicide at Graham Correctional;
- The first of two serious staff assaults at Menard;
- Staff assault at Henry Hill;
- Staff assault at Graham Corrections;
- One-on-one inmate fight with injuries at Graham;
- Staff assault at Graham;
- Serious staff assault at Pontiac requiring surgery for guards injuries;
- Pontiac reporting nearly daily fights in East and West houses of segregation due to double occupant cells that were formerly single occupant;
- Decatur is reporting three to five fights per week between female inmates, as more inmates arrive from Lincoln in preparation for Dwight closure;
- Inmate found dead in segregation cell at Menard, IDOC calls the death “suspicious,” while union staff say the inmate was murdered by his cell mate;
- Tamms inmates now living in Pontiac go on hunger strike due to living conditions;
- Second serious staff assault at Menard, which involved more than one dozen members of a Latin gang and took place in the facility chapel resulting in three workers taken to the hospital;
- and more than two dozen inmates involved in a massive fight at the medium-security Logan Correctional.
Costello says of the recent trend, “Those who work in our state prisons have an incredibly dangerous job. And yet, despite the protest of these very workers, the Governor chose to make it more dangerous by consolidating staff and further overcrowding the remaining facilities. The Governor made this decision in the face of already overcrowded prisons and an ever-rising prison population.”
Luechtefeld also notes the effects of overcrowding and under staffing on the apparent increase in violent incidents. He says correctional officers already serve in a thankless job and place their lives on the line every day.
“With the overcrowding and under staffing, this attack [Menard] and others like it only get more complicated, and difficult to deal with,” Luechtefeld said.
Costello hopes the incidents will force the Governor to become more involved in the issue, before the attacks become an even more regular occurrence.
“My thoughts and prayers are with the victims of these attacks and their families, and I wish the three of them a speedy recovery. It is my hope that these incidents will force the Governor to become more involved in this issue, before these attacks become a more regular occurrence. The staff of these facilities put themselves in harm’s way every day and they deserve better.”