An area lawmaker says West Central Illinois prisons are in fair shape despite shortcomings of leadership in the Illinois Department of Corrections.
State lawmakers on the Legislative Audit Commission questioned IDOC Director Rob Jeffreys last week after a recent audit found lapses in the department’s financial reporting and several crucial unfilled vacancies.
According to a report by WGEM, Jeffreys responded that his department was understaffed when it undertook an enhanced workload to keep people inside the state’s prison system safe during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Some lawmakers on the commission were not satisfied with the answer, as Illinois Auditor General Frank Mautino gave the department 60 findings for the 2-year audit; 46 of those findings were repeated from a previous audit.
100th District State Representative C.D. Davidsmeyer says locally, the Jacksonville Correctional Center, the Pittsfield Work Camp, and the Greene County Work Camp are in good standing despite the problems with leadership at the state level: “One of the biggest concerns in the Department of Corrections right now is employment, hiring, and [human resources]; which is not unique just to the Department of Corrections. It’s happening across both the public and private sector – finding good, quality, qualified employees.”
IDOC says it currently has 1,100 vacancies within the agency.
Several state lawmakers from both parties have also renewed questions about the state of Pontiac Correctional Center. The concern is drawn from February when roughly 170 inmates were transferred out of the facility to other prisons with little to no notice for facility staff. Jacksonville and Western Illinois Correctional Center in Mt. Sterling took on some of those transferred inmates. Jeffreys told the Legislative Audit Commission on Wednesday that there are no plans in place to close the Pontiac facility.
Davidsmeyer says he doesn’t buy that statement from Jeffreys: “I think there is an effort in general to close correctional facilities because they don’t believe people committing crimes did anything. They don’t believe in personal responsibility. That is the issue that we are dealing with right now, is that somehow the person committing the crime is the victim. There was a memo, an internal memo within the Department of Corrections that talked about the closing of Pontiac. Secretary Jeffreys said, ‘Oh no. That was never part of the plan.’ Well, you don’t release an internal document like that when it is not part of the plan. It doesn’t get past a verbal discussion without being part of a set of potential plans. I think that certainly Jeffreys decided not to answer a lot of questions. He passed the buck off to a lot of his staff. It’s certainly trying to hide the truth of what’s really going on.”
WGEM reports that Legislative Audit Commission Chair Fred Crespo of Downers Grove hopes that the questions with Jeffreys produced some help or ideas for hiring more employees for IDOC and addresses the future of the Pontiac facility in the near term.
Davidsmeyer says that the Illinois GOP will likely be drafting up potential fixes for the upcoming Spring session after the November General Election. You can hear more of Davidsmeyer’s thoughts on IDOC at this link.