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Quinn proposes reopening southern Illinois lockup

Published: Thursday, March 27, 2014 11:13 a.m. CDT

MURPHYSBORO — A southern Illinois juvenile prison closed for cost-cutting reasons less than two years ago may be reopened as an adult lockup for drunken driving offenders under Gov. Pat Quinn's budget blueprint.

But Illinois lawmakers hold the keys to whether Quinn gets his way with the shuttered Murphysboro lockup he identified as repurposing under his spending plan unveiled Wednesday, the Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers reported.

Making that prison reopening a reality depends on Illinois lawmakers making a temporary 67 percent income tax increase permanent, as Quinn proposes.

Quinn's budget office says an estimated 2,500 inmates in Illinois prisons are serving time for multiple drunken driving offenses, and shifting them to the former minimum-security lockup in Jackson County's Murphsyboro could ease prison crowding.

"Murphysboro could be repurposed fairly easily," said Abdon Pallasch, assistant director of the Governor's Office of Management and Budget. "This center will help us reduce recidivism and save taxpayer money over time."

The Murphysboro youth center was built to house more than 150 inmates and once employed as many as 135 workers. Budget documents suggest that as many as 430 drunken driving offenders whose crime did not result in death or harm of another person could be housed in the revamped prison and be classified as minimum-security prisoners.

Budget documents show the state also is looking to reopen the closed youth prison in Joliet.

While calling the possible Murphysboro reopening an economic plus for that area, Republican state Sen. Dave Luechtefeld of Okawville cautioned that there remains widespread disagreement about the governor's budget, which is based on lawmakers voting to keep the state's income tax at 5 percent.

"It's an election year. This is politics," Luechtefeld said. "We'll see where it goes."

Quinn, a Democrat, is seeking a second full term and faces Republican Bruce Rauner in the November election.

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