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IDOC cites better re-entry and employee recruitment options in plan to rebuild Logan prison near Joliet

FILE - Security fences surround the Illinois Department of Corrections' Logan Correctional Center on Nov. 18, 2016, in Lincoln, Ill.
Seth Perlman
AP file
The Logan prison, along with its neighbor Lincoln Correctional Center, is a major employer in the Lincoln and broader Logan County economy. Lincoln is about 40 miles southwest of Bloomington-Normal.

A new report confirms the Illinois Department of Corrections is indeed looking to move and rebuild the Logan women’s prison near Joliet instead of in Lincoln, impacting over 450 employees. 

It’s a possibility that Logan County officials have feared since at least last month, when the Pritzker administration announced it would rebuild two aging prisons – Logan in Lincoln and Stateville men’s prison near Joliet. At the time, it was unclear where exactly Logan would be rebuilt.

Now, the Department of Corrections (IDOC) says the “preferred plan” is for Logan Correctional Center to be rebuilt near Stateville in Crest Hill (near Joliet), according to a report sent Friday by IDOC’s acting director to the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability.

By moving Logan to Joliet, IDOC would take a “more regionalized approach” for its women’s facilities “by providing a northern facility to pair with the already centrally located facility in Decatur,” the report said. IDOC says Joliet is “geographically sensible.”

“A regionalized approach will facilitate a smoother transition and continuity of care when women are released to the community,” IDOC said. “For women returning to Northern Illinois, the proximity to (University of Illinois at Chicago), Northwestern, Rush, and other medical hubs can enhance our ability to provide women with the healthcare and social care partnerships that are needed to address complex medical and mental health needs.” 

IDOC says the move would also help it recruit employees, because the Chicagoland is bigger, more diverse, and more educated than Logan County. 

“These demographic factors are essential as they ensure a robust talent pool from which to recruit and fill positions, particularly in specialized fields such as medical and social work,” IDOC said in the report. “Additionally, Will County’s proximity to other collar counties and Cook County enhances access to a broad network of providers and vendors, further supporting the facility’s operational needs and the rebuild process.”

Why does Logan need to be rebuilt?

IDOC says Logan – which opened in 1870 – is so old that it’s barely operational – with “crumbling infrastructure, outdated design, and significant need for capital investment.” The prison needs $116 million in deferred maintenance, IDOC said. It literally runs on coal-fired power. 

“IDOC looks to make a transformative change to the carceral space, creating an environment that is geographically sensible, smaller in footprint, has increased access to essential social support services, as well as one that provides a humane space for incarcerated individuals, focused on necessary programming and rehabilitation efforts, and a safe, positive work environment for staff,” IDOC said in the report. 

The Logan prison, along with its neighbor Lincoln Correctional Center, is a major employer in the Lincoln and broader Logan County economy. Lincoln is about 40 miles southwest of Bloomington-Normal. 

Logan employs 454 people, mostly in security roles. If Logan were to close, IDOC says there are expected to be enough vacancies in other prisons to offer everyone a job, albeit in other communities that may require relocation. IDOC says there will be about 850 positions available in these other IDOC facilities “within a 90-mile radius of Logan.” 

The Regional Economics Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was asked to “analyze the economic impact on surrounding communities for Logan County, as well as the potential impact on Will County in the event Logan is relocated to Crest Hill,” IDOC said. That economic impact report was not immediately available Monday night.

Logan has just over 1,000 inmates. If the plan advances and a new prison is built, the old one in Lincoln would be demolished. 

“With the completion of Logan’s rebuild estimated to take up to five years, the Department will prioritize careful case planning for the safe transfer of individuals in custody to ensure the continuum of care while minimizing disruption,” IDOC said.

Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
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