Treasurer Dan Rutherford Supports Keeping Tamms Correctional Center Open, Calls for Strategic Planning

Cathy Decker/Staff reporter

Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford says Tamms Correctional Center should not close, as proposed by the governor earlier this year.  He is pleased that the bipartisan Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) voted against the governor’s recommendation of closing the facility.  Rutherford toured the supermax prison in March.  “Closing Tamms would pose a significant public safety threat to prison guards and communities across Illinois,” said Rutherford.  “Inmates at Tamms have proven to be dangerous; many inmates who are sent to Tamms have maliciously attacked prison workers.  Segregating these inmates at Tamms is at least one way to ensure that they don’t continue to cause harm.”

Furthermore, Rutherford believes serious problems would arise if nearly 200 serious offenders from Tamms are sent back to an already overcrowded state prison system.  According to AFSCME, closing Tamms would lead to the population at maximum security prisons being at 54 percent over design capacity.  “Putting all of these Tamms inmates back into maximum security state prisons would be adding fuel to the fire,” said Rutherford.  “There must be a better, more logical solution that will not put so much safety in jeopardy.”   

In addition to the public safety threat closing the Tamms prison would pose, Rutherford is also concerned about the economic impact of losing this prison in Alexander County and the southern Illinois region.  “Losing the Tamms prison would have a detrimental effect in a part of the state that very badly needs jobs,” said Rutherford.

To avoid putting communities like Tamms in future jeopardy, Rutherford is calling on the state of Illinois to implement business principles by having strategic long-range plans for its major state facility assets.  Rutherford would like a plan for each major facility, whether it is a unit in corrections, mental health, developmental services or veterans affairs.  After careful evaluations, the plan for each facility would be put into place for multi-year projections, similar to what the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) does now with the state’s road proposal.

“Requiring this kind of long-range strategic planning will be more effective for employees, residents and communities hosting these state facilities,” said Rutherford.  “Strategic planning will help prepare use of the brick and mortar of each state facility for the future, whether it entails construction or destruction.”  Rutherford thinks strategic planning should outline what will happen to a state facility’s employees, residents, buildings and community if the operation is to close for some reason.  He also believes options should also be presented for alternative deployment of those state assets.

This is not the first time Rutherford has taken a stand against abrupt state facility closure announcements.  In 2008, the previous governor suggested closing multiple state facilities without a plan.  Rutherford was an Illinois Senator at the time, and he proposed legislation that would have put into place long-range strategic planning on certain facility closures.  “As a state senator, I proposed legislation for the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC), but it has obvious application today for all of the state facilities slated for closure.  We simply cannot allow important decisions to be made without practical and thoughtful long-term planning.”

The current governor has said he plans to shutdown multiple state facilities to save the state money.  “Many questions remain as to what will happen to the people who work and receive care at these facilities and their families,” said Rutherford.  “It is obvious there is not a real long-range plan in place.  If a current state asset is not meeting the mission it was established for, could the facility be used for another purpose?  Planning one, two or three years ahead is what a well-managed company would do with its assets.”