(KMOV.com) -- Six Illinois prisons, including Vandalia and Centralia Correctional Centers, are setting up temporary housing for minimum security inmates in the prison gymnasiums.
The change comes as the state shuffles inmates between some prisons and closes others.
At the end of the month, the women’s prison in Dwight is closing - reducing the number of women’s prisons in the state from three to two.
Inmates from Dwight will be relocated to Logan Correctional Center and combined with female inmates from Lincoln Correctional Center to create a multi-security level facility. Men who are currently housed at Logan Correctional Center will be moved to Lincoln Correctional Center (the former women’s facility).
The Illinois Department of Corrections says that roughly 960 female inmates from Lincoln Correctional Center and around 1,300 male inmates from Logan Correctional Center will be swapped between the two facilities on March 12th.
The facilities are located near each other in Lincoln, Illinois. A spokesperson says that the inmates will be shuttled across a parking lot.
In addition, some other male inmates from Logan are in the process of being sent to other facilities.
The move comes as the state struggles to pay its bills. A spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Corrections explained in an email to News 4 that, “The closure plan will result in the female inmates from Dwight and Lincoln CC being combined into one facility at Logan CC. This will allow the department to better serve its female offenders in two prisons (Decatur and Logan) rather than three, and save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars annually.”
In January, the state closed the “supermax” prison in Tamms, saying it was the most expensive prison to run in Illinois and was not even at half-capacity.
Corrections Officer Scott Rensing tells News 4 that Tamms could have been used, “If there was a riot or big uprising at another prison, they had 75 cells where they could dump 75 people instantly.”
Rensing works at Vandalia Correctional Center, where rows of bunk beds have replaced gym equipment in the prison gymnasium. There’s room for around 100 inmates in the minimum security prison’s temporary housing set-up, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections. A spokesperson says that inmates who are identified as low risk will be housed in the gymnasium.
Rensing argues that the state is chipping away at the prison system in order to save money, saying that removing gym equipment during the winter was not a well thought out plan, “You can’t take everything away from a person. I mean, they have to have something to do, they have to have some kind of a relief valve.”