Quinn asks feds to consider buying Tamms
BY DAVE MCKINNEY Sun-Times Springfield Bureau Chief email@example.com Twitter: @davemckinney123 June 29, 2012 7:06PM
[LIFE AT TAMMS ]ADVANCE FOR SUNDAY MARCH 8--FILE-A cell block at the new Tamms Correctional Center in Tamms, Ill., is shown on Feb. 3, 1998, when the facility was dedicated. Illinois' newest and toughest state prison has been designed to isolate the worst inmates from the rest of Illinois' 41,000 prisoners and break them of their violent habits through strict isolation. Tamms will be accepting the first handful of its 500 inmates beginning Monday, March 9, and expects to be at full capacity by the summer. (AP Photo/Mark Christian)
Updated: August 1, 2012 6:17AM
SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Pat Quinn Friday asked the federal government to consider buying the state’s controversial super-max prison in far Downstate Tamms, which the governor intends to mothball this summer.
The prison located in the state’s southernmost tip was among two adult prisons the governor announced he was closing to help balance the Fiscal 2013 state budget, drawing rebukes from Downstate Democratic lawmakers who represent unionized employees at the facilities.
“While the state will no longer be using Tamms, we believe that it would serve as a valuable addition to the Federal Bureau of Prisons,” Quinn wrote in a letter Friday to the federal agency’s director, Charles E. Samuels Jr.
Despite lawmakers inserting cash into the new budget to maintain operations at Tamms, Quinn intends to close the facility on Aug. 31, 2012, and transfer inmates to other maximum-security prisons.
A federal prisons spokesman could not be reached late Friday.
The state’s overture to President Barack Obama’s administration marks the second attempt in which Illinois is trying to unload one of its prisons on the federal government.
It has been negotiating with the feds for the sale of the Thomson Correctional Center, which the state built in the 1990s but never could afford to staff. Obama’s administration had floated the transfer of inmates from Guantanamo Bay to Thomson, but that idea was shot down by Congress.
Human-rights advocates have sharply criticized Tamms because it subjects inmates to isolation for 23 out of 24 hours a day.
Former Gov. Jim Edgar’s administration opened Tamms in the 1990s as a place to house the “worst of the worst” among Illinois’ prison population, those who instigated prison unrest, were involved in attacks against prison staff or fellow inmates or were otherwise disruptive.
It also was the prison where death sentences were to be carried out in a state-of-the-art execution chamber, but only one — that of DuPage County serial killer Andrew Kokoraleis — was conducted there before Illinois abolished the death penalty.