Support builds for keeping IYC-Joliet open
By Bob Okon firstname.lastname@example.org May 30, 2012 4:08PM
Updated: July 6, 2012 9:04AM
JOLIET — Support for the Illinois Youth Center-Joliet has been gaining in the Legislature, while back home the place was on partial lockdown after incidents last week.
IYC-Joliet, a prison facility for juvenile offenders, is scheduled to close July 31 if Gov. Pat Quinn goes through with his plan. But the Illinois House was on the verge Wednesday of joining the state Senate in appropriating money to keep the facility open.
“If the House and Senate put together a budget that’s balanced and there’s enough funding in there, there’s no reason for the governor to oppose it,” said state Rep. Larry Walsh Jr., D-Elwood.
Walsh cautioned that as of early afternoon Wednesday the House had not voted on the appropriation bill, which includes $19.7 million for IYC-Joliet. However, he said, “I think it will get through the House.”
Quinn proposed closing IYC-Joliet and several other state facilities, including Dwight Correctional Center, to save money in the state budget. A spokesman for the governor’s administration last week, however, said the fate of IYC-Joliet ultimately depended on how the state budget was resolved.
The governor’s office has described IYC-Joliet as an outdated facility that looks too much like a prison and was not designed for modern methods of treating juvenile offenders.
Local supporters for IYC-Joliet, including employees there who stand to lose their jobs, have focused on its role as a maximum-security facility. They have said that other youth centers are not designed or equipped to handle the more hardened juvenile offenders that come to IYC-Joliet.
IYC-Joliet went on partial lockdown last week after assaults on staff and fights among the youth, said Sharon Konopka, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1753. The union local represents employees at IYC-Joliet.
Konopka said the lockdown started Friday with heavier restrictions placed on the movement of inmates. There had been six assaults on staff members, and two employees were taken to the hospital with broken bones, she said.
A spokesman for the Department of Juvenile Justice said the restrictions were lifted Monday.