tammsA recent attack on prison guards at Pontiac Correctional Center serves to highlight the short-sighted decision to close a prison in Southern Illinois.

Tamms Correctional Center, a “supermax” prison that housed Illinois’ most dangerous criminals, closed its doors in 2013 as a casualty of then-Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget. State Senator Gary Forby (D-Benton) led the fight four years ago to keep the prison open and is urging the current governor to reconsider his predecessor’s decision.

“Tamms was built with the purpose of housing violent prisoners who have attacked Corrections officers and other prisoners,” said Forby, who represents the prison’s namesake town. “The attack last week in Pontiac could have been avoided if Tamms were still open.”

Tamms was built in the 1990s under then-Gov. Jim Edgar after officials with the Illinois Department of Corrections pleaded for help in getting the state prison system’s gang problem under control. Inmates who attacked guards and other prisoners would have had to worry about getting sent to Tamms, which held inmates under solitary confinement for 22 to 24 hours a day, Forby said.

“Now that Tamms is closed, there is no deterrent for inmates who attack the men and women who are working hard to keep them and the general public safe,” Forby said. “Closing Tamms only added to the dangerous overcrowding at Pontiac and Menard (Correctional Center), and now we are seeing the results of that.”

Forby added that Gov. Bruce Rauner has followed in Quinn’s footsteps by keeping Tamms closed.

“There were six Corrections officers sent to the hospital from an attack that never should have happened,” Forby said. “There is a modern, efficient prison in Southern Illinois sitting vacant because of Pat Quinn’s mistake. Governor Rauner has the chance to reverse that mistake.”

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