IDOC Drafts Plans to Downsize Pontiac, Vandalia Prisons

By Benjamin Cox on February 22, 2022 at 11:07am

A front view of Pontiac Prison (WGLT-NPR).

The Illinois Department of Corrections is planning on downsizing its number of prisons. It’s causing some ire from corrections’ employees unions.

Illinois NPR reports that Illinois’ prison population has dwindled to around 28,000. According to Capitol Fax, the Illinois prison population has decreased by 42% since 2015. IDOC says that mounting maintenance costs at facilities are driving the need to close portions of the Vandalia and Pontiac correctional facilities.

Under the proposed plan, Pontiac would close the medium security unit and go from 1,740 beds to 642 beds. Pontiac currently houses 1,144 inmates, including a unit that houses seriously mentally ill individuals. Shuttering of the medium security facility at Pontiac would result in the moving of around 329 inmate, according to the Bloomington Pantagraph.

Vandalia Correctional Center currently has a capacity of 1,001 and would be reduced to 401 inmates under the plan. Vandalia’s capacity downsize would not result in the moving of any prisoners according to the drafted plan.

Both facilities face maintenance costs, including $3.8 million at Pontiac. The reduction of beds at Vandalia will save the state $12 million, according to plan estimates.

IDOC says the department has not started moving people in order to reduce the populations in these facilities, but that claim was disputed by Anders Lindall, public affairs director for AFSCME Council 31. Lindall told Capitol News Illinois that IDOC began moving prisoners on February 11th. Lindall says the union subsequently received notice of IDOC’s intent to reduce populations at Vandalia and Pontiac with a target date of March 16 for the first phase, with additional unit closures to be completed by the summer.

Several GOP General Assembly members have since sent a letter to Governor J.B. Pritkzer asking about information on the transfers. According to Bloomington Representative Dan Brady, approximately 100 prisoners had been moved out of the Pontiac prison by the middle of this month.

There has not been any information released on how this will effect prison populations at Western Illinois Correctional Facility in Brown County or the Jacksonville Correctional Facility.