State considering new use for IYC-Joliet
By bob Okon firstname.lastname@example.org October 6, 2013 8:20PM
Illinois Youth Center Joliet at 2848 McDonough St. closed in February after the state consolidated youth prison operations statewide.
Updated: November 8, 2013 6:17AM
The state is looking at using the closed Illinois Youth Center-Joliet as a facility for mentally ill prisoners, according to a spokesman for the corrections department.
IYC-Joliet is not the only closed state property being eyed for potential incarceration of severely mentally ill prisoners, but it’s “definitely under consideration,” spokesman Tom Shaer said.
The property on McDonough Street was one of several prisons, youth centers and other state facilities closed this year as part of the state’s budget cutbacks. Gov. Pat Quinn pointed to declining numbers of inmates and changes in methods for handling juvenile offenders in pushing for closing IYC-Joliet and other youth centers despite stiff opposition from unions and local legislators.
State Sen. Pat McGuire (D-Joliet) told the city council last week that he had asked Salvador Godinez, state corrections director, whether his department has interest in reopening the Joliet center.
“His answer, quote verbatim, ‘Definitely maybe,’ ” McGuire said.
McGuire said DOC is considering the use of IYC-Joliet for 17-year-olds who were convicted as adults as well as for mentally ill prisoners.
“It could be both. It could be one. It could be neither,” he said.
The state is facing a lawsuit, which could determine whether it needs to use IYC-Joliet for mentally ill patients, McGuire said.
Shaer, however, said a decision on IYC-Joliet does not depend on the outcome of the lawsuit.
“We are committed to providing constitutionally adequate health care,” he said, and vacated state property is among the options DOC is exploring for severely mentally ill inmates.
“Given the fiscal issues of the state of Illinois, DOC really needs to meet any challenges in the area of health care,” Shaer said. “We believe that vacant or surplus state property is right for that reason.”
Local officials have been concerned about the future of IYC-Joliet in light of problems associated with the old Joliet Correctional Center, which closed in 2002. A fire at that Collins Street prison in July highlighted the lack of attention being paid to the former prison.
“We showed state government at much less than its best,” McGuire told the city council.
One positive result from the fire, he said, is that the state has increased security patrols and cut grass and removed weeds.