AFSCME Local 3549, Jacksonville Correctional Center

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Deputy warden's ties to New Mexico official probed
By Rick Pearson and Christi Parsons
Tribune staff reporters
Published May 31, 2006

Illinois prison officials said Tuesday they are conducting an internal investigation into a Downstate deputy warden whose relationship with New Mexico's prison chief led to his suspension and an investigation in that state.
Illinois prisons spokesman Derek Schnapp said privacy rules prevent him from elaborating on the agency's investigation of Ann E. Casey, assistant warden for programs at the Centralia Correctional Center, who also has registered as a lobbyist in New Mexico for suppliers of prison health care and food services.
On Monday, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson ordered the suspension of Corrections Secretary Joe R. Williams after the Albuquerque Journal reported that Williams used his government cell phone to make more than 600 calls to Casey during a five-month period through Feb. 23.
Williams refused to describe his relationship with the Illinois prison official to the Albuquerque newspaper except to call her a "friend." He maintained that her role as a lobbyist had nothing to do with how he ran his agency.
Richardson ordered the suspension to run until an internal investigation is completed June 9. "The governor sets a very high ethical standard for his administration and will not tolerate any level of abuse of authority or public trust," Richardson Chief of Staff James Jimenez said in a statement.
There was no telephone listing for Casey in Centralia or in the East St. Louis region, where she owns property. Reached on Tuesday, officials at the Centralia prison said Casey had left for the day.
Casey has worked for the Illinois Department of Corrections for more than 16 years and has been assistant warden at Centralia since January of last year, where comptroller records show she earns $5,200 per month.
Records also show that since 2005, Casey has been a registered lobbyist in New Mexico for Wexford Health Sources of Pittsburgh. In 2004, Wexford was awarded a contract worth as much as $100 million for providing health services in New Mexico prisons. In 2005, Casey also registered in New Mexico as a lobbyist for Aramark, a food-service provider.
Wexford also has contracts with the Illinois Department of Corrections for medical services that have paid the firm more than $51 million so far this budget year and $71.7 million for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2005, records show.
Schnapp said Wexford and Aramark do not provide services at the Centralia prison, where Casey works. Schnapp said Casey was still being paid by the Illinois prison agency during its investigation.
Schnapp said Casey was allowed to moonlight as a lobbyist after she filled out a secondary employment form, which was approved through the office of Illinois Prison Director Roger Walker.
Wexford officials told the Albuquerque newspaper in a statement that the firm had considered hiring Casey but never put her on retainer or paid her. Still, Casey reregistered as a lobbyist for Wexford in New Mexico in February of this year.
Economic interest statements Casey filed with the Illinois secretary of state's office last year and this year note that her work for Wexford was being conducted as a lobbyist for Cope Consulting in Hobbs, N.M.
Records show that the registered agent for Cope Consulting is Johnny Cope, a contractor and major donor to the New Mexico governor who was appointed by Richardson in 2003 to that state's highway commission.
Cope also was a registered lobbyist for Wexford in 2005, and the Albuquerque newspaper said Cope paid Casey's lobbyist registration fee.
Hobbs, a community of 28,000 located along the New Mexico-Texas border, is also where Williams served as the head of the privately run Lea County Correctional Center until he was tapped by Richardson to be prisons chief in January 2003.

Mom's fight ends; inmate wins parole
By Stanley Ziemba
Tribune staff reporter
Published May 13, 2006

A man imprisoned 28 years for the attempted murder of a 19-year-old nursing student in Oak Lawn has been paroled, ending two decades of campaigning by her mother to keep him behind bars.
Maurice Childs, 51, who was at Jacksonville Correctional Center in recent years, was freed Thursday, hours after the Illinois Prisoner Review Board voted 8-7 to grant his parole request, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections.
Betty Leen, 75, said she had been dreading Childs' release since he stabbed her daughter, Mary, 15 times on Nov. 6, 1976, in an Oak Lawn hotel room where she worked as a maid.
Betty and Mary Leen, their relatives and police who investigated the crime spoke against Childs' parole nearly every year since 1986, when Childs became eligible. They argued he would victimize somebody else, and the Leens said they feared for their lives.
Betty Leen collected petition signatures each year to urge board members to keep Childs in prison. For 20 years, she and others persuaded a majority to deny his release, although on occasion Childs came within a vote of gaining freedom, records show. Following a board hearing in Oak Lawn in February and a subsequent hearing in Jacksonville, a majority concluded Childs had served more time than the average sentence for attempted murder. Some noted they could no longer ignore his record of having been a model prisoner.
Childs, who maintained his innocence, was convicted of attempted murder with intent to kill and sentenced to 50 to 75 years in prison.
He would have been scheduled for release in 2009. Under his parole terms, Childs cannot return to Cook County.

Report: Prison workers busy during escape
Two employees are found to have had more to do than they could manage.
2 Dec 2005

Control room staff at the Iowa State Penitentiary at Fort Madison have more to do than they can handle, a factor that contributed to the successful escape by two inmates last month, according to an Iowa Department of Corrections report.
Gov. Tom Vilsack has said that human error, not budget cuts for staffing, contributed to the escape at the maximum-security prison on Nov. 14.
But the four-page report, distributed to key legislators, says at least two employees among those who could have witnessed the escape were too busy.
"The post order requires more than the officers can do, and as a result, the officers, out of necessity, monitor high traffic areas," the report said.
Staff in the control room, the operational heart of the prison, are required to issue items to other officers such as keys, handcuffs and flashlights, the report said.
Simultaneously, they also are responsible for electronically opening and closing gates and monitoring 10 closed-circuit television screens with images from 178 cameras.
"At the time of the movement of the escapees . . . the observation of the officers was on traffic gates, and the dining hall where most of the inmate activity was occurring," the report says.
Vilsack has said a number of staff failures allowed Robert Legendre and Martin Moon to escape, using a makeshift rope of upholstery webbing anchored to a grappling hook fashioned out of metal pipe.
Moon, a convicted murderer, and Legendre, a Nevada convict serving time for attempted murder, scaled a 30-foot wall in the vicinity of an unoccupied guard tower. The two were captured within days, Moon in Illinois and Legendre in Missouri.
Vilsack has dismissed suggestions that cuts in prison staffing budgets contributed to the escapes. He replaced the warden, while one employee was fired and five others were reprimanded or assigned to other prisons.
Vilsack said last week that the National Institute of Corrections would conduct a system-wide security audit of all nine Iowa prisons and make recommendations about staffing.
Spokesman Matt Paul said the report, based on an investigation by corrections general counsel Michael Savala and written by department Director Gary Maynard, demonstrates what Vilsack has said all along — that there were a number of staff failures that contributed to the escape.
"The governor continues to believe that there were a number of opportunities throughout this event that these guys should have been apprehended by several folks," Paul said.
The report also listed deficiencies Vilsack had mentioned previously, including that materials were not inventoried and inmates were not counted adequately.
But Paul declined to say whether Vilsack agreed with the excerpt about demands on the control room staff.
"We can answer that question after the National Institute of Corrections completes their work," Paul said.
Vilsack has asked the state corrections board to study for a month whether the prison should be replaced. The board meets today in Fort Madison to discuss it.
The two officers on duty in the control room at the time of the escape were not disciplined, corrections spokesman Fred Scaletta said.
Scaletta agreed the control room employees have more than their share of work. "Yes, we are probably understaffed in that area, because we have two people trying to do a whole lot of things," he said. "The responsibility of those two people is more than two people can handle."
But the room is so small that it would be difficult to add more staff, a problem that might be alleviated by a new prison, he said.


Judge rejects prison guards' use of leave time for union business

Associated Press

A Superior Court judge has ruled against the union representing state prison guards in a dispute over a long-standing practice of using leave time donated by its members to conduct union activities.

Officials from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation filed a lawsuit last summer to enforce provisions of their labor agreement with the California Correctional Peace Officers Association. That contract caps how much time guards can donate to the union.

Union leaders said the suit is just another effort by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to cripple the politically powerful union, which helped defeating the governor's ballot agenda in this month's special election.

"The only reason they are making this an issue is to shut us up because we are critical of them," said Chuck Alexander, spokesman for the prison guards union. "This is just more bully tactics."

He said the union will appeal Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Shellyanne Chang's ruling, which was announced to the parties on Tuesday.

A spokesman for the state said politics had nothing to do with the dispute.

There may not be direct costs to state taxpayers when guards donate vacation or other time that the state owes them, but there are indirect costs, said Dave Gilb, chief labor negotiator for the Department of Personnel Administration, which has been representing the state corrections department in the case.

He said shifts must be covered by someone else when a guard takes time off to conduct union activities.

"It's not directly an issue of hard dollars," Gilb said. "But this leave has to be factored into all the other leaves and its impact on manpower."

Both sides agree that the prison guards have used donated time to help offset union costs for many years, dating back at least two administrations before Schwarzenegger took office in 2003.

The time is used for representation at employee discipline hearings, community service programs and political purposes such as protests as the Capitol, among other activities.

The department has argued that the guards' contract limits the number of hours that can be donated to 10,000 over the five-year life of the agreement. By May, the union had used more than 120,000 hours, the administration claimed.

In June, an arbitrator sided with the union, saying the contract had no limit because of a side agreement between the union and the administration of former Gov. Gray Davis, which negotiated the contract.

Chang, however, ruled that the arbitrator had overstepped her authority. She sided with the administration, saying the contract itself was the only relevant document.

If Chang's ruling is upheld, it's not clear what kind of remedy the prison guards union may face.

The union has an annual budget of $25 million, which does not include the leave-time expenses. If all the leave were valued at the guard's top pay of $34 per hour, the 120,000 hours of time would be worth about $4 million.

Local Prison Unions Hold Informational Pickets on Understaffing
Informational pickets are being held at the Centralia, Big Muddy and four other Southern Illinois prisons Tuesday. Anders Lindall of AFSCME Council 31, which represents the union workers at the prisons, is calling the pickets a coordinated protest over concerns about understaffing and overcrowded conditions.
Lindall says as a result of reductions, it's not uncommon for one correctional officer to run a chow line, oversee the yard, or be responsible for an entire wing of cells.
Lindall says while inmate population has been steady or growing, the number of personnel has declined nearly 32-hundred people or 23 percent since 2001. At the Centralia Correctional Center, personnel levels are down 20 percent. At Big Muddy, personnel has declined 38 percent.
But D.D. Short of the Illinois Department of Corrections counters that the prisons are safe. She says the department is working within its budget safely and securely.
The union is pushing for an increase in staffing, especially after the escape of two inmates in Iowa last week. They charge by comparison, Illinois is in a worse staffing condition than Iowa.

Mapin discusses shortcomings of region's prisons
BY Jim Muir
Buddy Maupin doesn't want to be put in a position to say "I told you so."
Maupin, regional director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, made that statement Wednesday while discussing the daring escape of two inmates from a maximum security prison in Fort Madison, Iowa. Both men are serving life sentences and walked away from the prison reserved for Iowa's most dangerous inmates.
"Both security towers were unmanned at the (Iowa) prison because of short staffing," Maupin said. "These are the types of things that happen when there is not enough staff to properly secure a facility and we have the potential for that same type of situation right here in Illinois."
Iowa Sen. Gene Fraise told the Associated Press prison officials told him the men scaled a prison wall near an unmanned guard tower.
Maupin, whose union represents correctional employees and other state workers, said he fears the same situation could happen in Illinois, where the overall number of correctional officers has steadily declined during the past seven years and particularly under the Blagojevich administration.
"The reason we're continually given is that the state has to live within its budget priorities set by the administration and approved by the legislation," Maupin said. "Looking at the potential risks involved I think these are lousy budget priorities and the priorities are definitely not in order. When society decides to incarcerate people there is a cost involved and one of those costs is having sufficient security staff on site to protect the public - and that is simply not being done."
Maupin produced official figures from the Illinois Department of Corrections that backed up his allegation that there have been dramatic cuts in both security staff and support staff. Maupin said the decreases are based on a time span of slightly more than seven years, from July 1, 1998, through Oct. 1, 2005. Maupin said while there were noticeable declines between 1998 and 2001, most of the decreases in the ratio of security staff to inmates have been on Blagojevich's watch.
During that time span, the Tamms Correctional Center showed a decrease of 45 percent, with Menard Correctional Center at Chester showing a 30 percent decrease, followed by Big Muddy Correctional Center at Ina showing a 25 percent decrease. Other Southern Illinois prisons affected by the cuts are Centralia Correctional Center with a 16 percent decrease and Shawnee Correctional Center at Vienna with an 11 percent cut.
During that same time frame all the facilities - Tamms (40 percent), Menard (38 percent), Big Muddy (28 percent), Shawnee (19 percent) and Centralia (20 percent) - also showed drastic decreases in the total staff to inmate ratio.
Maupin pointed out that those numbers based on a ratio cannot be manipulated by state officials who would say that the overall number of inmates has decreased at some facilities. He also added that there have been no proposals during the last three budget years to add correctional officers.
"That's based on the official figures of the department of corrections so if the inmate population goes down then the number of staff reflects that," Maupin said. "The blame goes all around, from legislators who oppose revenues to fund increases in staff to the administration who proposes unacceptably low staffing levels."
Maupin said the issue of understaffing is not exclusive to this region.
"This isn't just a Southern Illinois problem - it's a statewide problem," Maupin said. "It's across the board; we've had terrible short-staffing throughout the state. It's not a north vs. south issue and it's not really worse at any particular prison. This is what happens when you reduce an agency headcount by more than 3,000 employees."
Because of the staff cuts, large groups of inmates are often moved by only one or two correctional officers, setting up the potential for a volatile situation.
"The line movement and at chow time when you have a large group of inmates together in one place are the most dangerous situations," Maupin said. "We're thousands of officers short right now so we're hoping that what happened in Iowa will raise some concerns because we have a worse situation regarding staffing than Iowa."
Dede Short, a spokesperson with the Department of Corrections, said she doesn't believe there is a threat to safety and called the ratio of security staff to inmates a "stable situation."
"There are some places where we might be somewhat short-staffed but we still feel like the staff counts are relatively stable," Short said. "We conduct roster management everyday to make sure all of our mandatory posts are filled. We look at this every single day and we always have done this. We feel like we are maintaining safety and security for the staff, the inmates and the public."
Maupin said the issue of understaffing will be the key issue AFSCME addresses in the upcoming legislative session that will begin in Springfield in mid-January.
State Rep. Brandon Phelps, who serves the sprawling 118th District, has more prison facilities in his 11-county legislative area than any other Illinois lawmaker. Facilities in the 118th District include Tamms, Shawnee and Vienna correctional centers along with the Illinois Youth Camp in Harrisburg, the Hardin County Boot Camp and the Dixon Springs Boot Camp.
Phelps said he recognizes there is an understaffing problem and added he plans to sponsor a supplemental bill in January to increase the number of correctional officers.
"There's been a shortage of money but still yet we have to take a proactive stand on this issue instead of a reactive stand," Phelps said. "When somebody gets hurt or killed because we didn't have enough staffing, then it's too late and I don't want that on our watch."
Maupin said politicians sometimes respond to crime by saying "lock 'em up and throw away the key."
"Except, we don't throw away the key, we hand the key to the brave men and women who work in corrections," Maupin said.

One of two convicted murderers who escaped this week from the Iowa State Penitentiary was captured this morning near the Menard State Penitentiary in Randolph County, authorities said.

Martin Moon, 34, was sleeping in a car that had been stolen in Ferris, Ill., shortly after the escape. When an officer stopped to run on a check on the car’s license plates, Moon drove off. After a short chase, Moon jumped out of the car and ran into the woods. A police dog from Steeleville, Ill., sniffed him out.

A nationwide search continued for the other escapee, Robert Joseph Legendre, 27. He and Moon broke out of the prison from the prison in Fort Madison, Iowa, on Monday night. Authorities said they used a homemade grappling hook to scale an unguarded section of the prison’s limestone walls and somehow got around a wire that is supposed to activate an alarm when touched.

Randolph County Sheriff Fred Frederking said authorities do not think Legendre was at large near Chester. Moon told authorities that he had left Legendre outside the Iowa State Penitentiary after Legendre had fallen and injured his leg.

"This escapee thought the other would slow him down," Frederking said.

Moon, driving a stolen Ford LTD, was headed south along the Great River Road, apparently for Tennessee, said Frederking. He stopped in the St. Louis area and stole a Tennessee license plate for the car. Exhausted from the road, he pulled on to a secluded road near Chester, not knowing that it led to the state's maximum security prison.

Moon was convicted of first-degree murder in 2000 for shooting his roommate, Kevin Dickson, during a drug deal in 1999. Legendre had been transferred from a prison in Nevada, where he was convicted in the fatal beating of a cabbie.

An investigation of the escape has begun, Vilsack said.

When the job is not done, people are going to be held accountable and responsible, Vilsack said. There were a series of mistakes that were made.
Moon must appear in court in Illinois and faces extradition to Iowa.

Murderers escape; budget cuts left prison tower unstaffed

Copyright 2005, Des Moines Register and Tribune Company

November 15, 2005
Two convicted murderers escaped from the Iowa State Penitentiary at Fort Madison Monday night by climbing over a stone wall where a guard tower was unstaffed because of state budget cuts, a state lawmaker said today.
State Sen. Eugene Fraise, a Fort Madison Democrat, said he had previously argued against removing armed correctional officers from the guard towers, but prison officials contended they weren't needed when no one was in the prison yard.
"Well, right here it is. We told you so," Fraise said. He said the two inmates, who are considered dangerous, reportedly used a rope with a grappling hook to scale the tall limestone walls, which surround Fort Madison's maximum-security unit.
The escape occurred on the west side of the prison, which is only about a block from U.S. Highway 61 and near a bridge on the Mississippi River, which crosses into Illinois, Fraise said. Fort Madison is also only a short distance from the Missouri border.
The missing inmates, who remained at large today, are Martin Shane Moon, 34, and Robert Joseph Legendre, 27, who were last seen at 7 p.m. Monday at the prison. They had been working inside the penitentiary walls for Iowa Prison Industries when the escape occurred, said Ron Welder, a prison spokesman.
Iowa Department of Corrections officials were in meetings Tuesday morning and were unavailable for comment. Aides to Gov. Tom Vilsack also weren't available.
State Rep. Lance Horbach, a Tama Republican who chairs a prison budget subcommittee, said today he had been told by prison officials that at least one of the nine guard towers had been staffed at the Fort Madison prison when the escape occurred. The general inmate population was not in the yard when the escape occurred, he said.
State lawmakers agreed three years ago to reduce staffing of prison guard towers in Iowa's prison system, but they directed prison officials to keep armed officers in the towers when there was activity in the prison yard, Horbach said.
"If there is something that we have to review, it is the oversight or the security that is provided during these extracurricular types of work details," Horbach said. Key legislators believe the Department of Corrections needs a heightened security level until they know exactly how the escape occurred and until procedures are in place to prevent a similar incident, he added.
Moon was imprisoned in July 2000 and is serving a life sentence for the first-degree murder of Kevin Dickson in Clarke County. Moon was living near Lorimor when Dickson disappeared. Authorities discovered Dickson's remains on April 26, 1999, and an autopsy showed he had been shot to death.
Legendre was convicted in Nevada and was transferred to Iowa in December 2004. He is serving a life sentence for kidnapping, a weapons offense and homicide.
Fort Madison police reported that a 1995 gold Pontiac Bonneville with Iowa plates 776-NOW was stolen at about the time of the escape, according to Jim Saunders, a spokesman for the Iowa Department of Public Safety. Authorities are not sure whether Moon and Legendre were responsible for the car theft, but believe the escapees may be traveling in the stolen vehicle, he said.
Vilsack has asked the Iowa State Patrol and other state resources to help with the manhunt for the convicts, Saunders said. Law enforcement agencies in Missouri and Illinois have joined the search.
Anyone with information about the two escapees should contact the Fort Madison Police Department at (319) 372-2525.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents Fort Madison prison officers, strongly protested in 2002 when the Iowa Legislature implemented the plan to eliminate staffing of many prison guard towers to save money. The union contended cutting the armed officers would endanger public safety. Prison officials said high-tech security equipment would be installed to replace most employees who staffed the towers. Vilsack supported the cuts.
The Fort Madison prison has nine guard towers, and some of them have remained staffed since the budget cuts were implemented, although prison officials have declined to identify which ones for security reasons.
Escapes from Iowa's maximum-security prisons have been rare in the past. The Iowa State Penitentiary is the oldest prison west of the Mississippi River, with its original buildings constructed in 1839 while Iowa was still a territory. The prison currently houses 985 inmates in maximum and medium-security units, and at two nearby state prison farms.
Fraise said today that Fort Madison residents are concerned about the escapes, "but I don't think get as shook up as people might think because they live there with the prison."
In August 1995, Todd Allen Heard, a Fort Madison inmate, walked away from a minimum-security prison farm, broke into a southeast Iowa farmhouse and raped the woman who lived there, authorities said. He was found guilty of first-degree kidnapping and other charges and received a life sentence.


Budget cuts facilitate Iowa prison escape: senator
Tue Nov 15, 2005 2:09 PM ET

DES MOINES (Reuters) - Two convicted murderers were able to climb over a wall and escape from an Iowa prison because budget cuts left some guard towers unmanned, a state senator said on Tuesday.

Officials at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison were unable to man all of the prison's towers because of a lack of state funding and were relying instead on an electronic wire "that was supposed to take care of all the security problems," Eugene Fraise, a Democrat who represents the prison area said.

The two men escaped on Monday night by tossing a rope on the wall around the facility, and police in Iowa, Illinois and Missouri were still hunting for them on Tuesday.

"I never liked that idea. I always thought that those towers ought to be manned. They were put there for a reason, and that was security," Fraise told the Radio Iowa news network.

The prison on the banks of the Mississippi River was established in 1839 when Iowa was still a territory, and it is the oldest prison west of that river.

Questions mount on state hiring
By Ray Long, John Chase and Ofelia Casillas, Tribune staff reporters. Tribune staff reporters Christi Parsons, Susan Kuczka and Rick Pearson contributed to this report
Published November 13, 2005

Additional material published Nov. 20, 2005:
A Page 1 story Nov. 13 about questionable hiring in state government incorrectly reported that prison worker Neil Rossi lost a set of keys to a Downstate penitentiary. A Department of Corrections spokeswoman said Rossi reported his keys missing after he gave them to another employee. The prison department said last week that an investigation has absolved him of losing the keys.
On his first full day as Illinois' new governor, Rod Blagojevich dramatically displayed his reform agenda by firing dozens of his predecessor's allies and ordering a freeze on state hiring.
"I intend to use every power I have and my discretion as governor to eliminate unqualified, unnecessary and overpaid individuals wherever I find them in state government," the Democrat declared in January 2003.
The symbolism of Executive Order 1 was an electric way of telling Illinois voters that the cronyism associated with Republican George Ryan was over. But the job freeze had another effect: concentrating personnel decisions within Blagojevich's office, which has to sign off on agency hires and promotions.
Now, a federal criminal grand jury probe, at least two investigations by Blagojevich's inspector general and a host of complaints by ex-state workers are raising questions about the governor's vow that qualifications, not politics, determine who gets a state job.
A Tribune examination of job placements in agencies that have been under investigation found a system that has allowed the Democratic governor's allies to secure high-paying, high profile positions despite questionable experience.
Blagojevich has said the state and federal inquiries are not "a bad thing if you're confident that your systems are working and that you know that you try to do things honestly, ethically and responsibly."
Yet Blagojevich's hiring system has resulted in at least three men with no law-enforcement experience--a factory supervisor, a car-parts manager and a farmer--getting jobs as assistant prison wardens. In one case, a former Blagojevich campaign worker with a history of drunken driving arrests even got a job in traffic safety.
Blagojevich aides say the candidates went through proper channels, earning the positions regardless of political pedigree. They also point out that the state payroll has dropped to 57,000 employees from 69,000 since 2003, though much of that was due to an early-retirement program instituted by Ryan.
Since at least March, federal prosecutors have been conducting an investigation into alleged hiring irregularities involving two top Blagojevich hiring officials and a top personnel officer at the state's child-welfare agency, documents reviewed by the Tribune show.
Prosecutors also have used subpoenas to demand hiring records from the Departments of Children and Family Services, Transportation and Corrections and from the governor's office, dating to March 2002, when Blagojevich won the Democratic primary for governor.
Last week, the Tribune disclosed that a September 2004 inspector general's report found that two top officials in the governor's office ratified personnel moves that ultimately let two politically connected men bypass veteran-hiring rules.
Firings in state prisons have spawned lawsuits. Attorney Scott Schimanski of Shorewood has filed 16 cases on behalf of former wardens and assistant wardens contending that political decisions have resulted in inexperienced people replacing career employees.
Since Blagojevich's inauguration, Jesse Tinajero, Don Rumsey and Stephen Scates have been hired as assistant wardens at youth prisons.
Tinajero's work history includes being a supervisor at the spring factory once owned by Blagojevich's father-in-law, Ald. Richard Mell (33rd). Blagojevich aides note that Tinajero was a foster parent, part of a mentoring program for at-risk youths and had valuable managerial experience. Tinajero is now chief of security at a state transitional facility for soon-to-be-released inmates in Chicago.
Falling out with Mell noted
Aides to the governor said Tinajero's connection to Mell had nothing to do with his hiring, and they noted that Blagojevich and Mell had a public falling out earlier this year. But Tinajero was hired more than a year before the family feud erupted.
Rumsey used to work for a pair of Downstate Democratic congressmen. Before that, Rumsey ran his family's auto parts business and, months before he was hired, had applied to be manager of a Sears store in Paducah, Ky. A Blagojevich aide said Rumsey's planning skills are valuable in his job.
Scates, the part-time mayor of Shawneetown, has run one of the state's largest family farms for most of his career and also sold irrigation equipment. A member of a prominent Democratic family, Scates was named assistant warden of programs at the Illinois Youth Center in Harrisburg in July. Blagojevich aides said Scates' involvement in youth baseball, his time on a local school board and his experience managing the farm aided him at the facility.
Another corrections employee is Neil Rossi, brother of a top Blagojevich lieutenant, Tony Rossi. Neil Rossi, who had been with the agency since 1988, was placed in an assistant warden's post last year at the Jacksonville Correctional Center. In September, he lost a set of keys, including a master key to open offices, cellhouses and two locked wings, prompting a four-day lockdown that confined inmates to their cells.
"There has been no action taken because the investigation is continuing," Corrections Department spokeswoman Dede Short said. "It is my understanding that the keys have not been found."
At the Department of Transportation, Donte Buonaguidi was hired in November 2003 to a supposedly politically immune position as an equal opportunity compliance officer. Buonaguidi was hired even though he was sentenced in the 1980s to four years in federal prison after pleading guilty to extortion and conspiracy to distribute cocaine.
Officials said Buonaguidi disclosed his criminal background before taking the job and said he was hired because he worked on similar employment issues for the Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Housing Authority and the Cook County Highway Department.
A few months earlier, Transportation hired former Blagojevich campaign worker Rodney Hale to head up administrative work for its traffic safety division despite a drunken-driving charge a few months earlier. Hale already had a 1996 drunk-driving conviction on his record. Transportation Department officials said he was well qualified for his job, which focused on administrative issues. Hale's employment ended a few months ago when he was charged with drunken driving again. He has pleaded not guilty.
The agency also hired Josh Hartke--cousin of Chuck Hartke, a former state representative and the current state agriculture director--as an administrator in Downstate Paris. Before that, Josh Hartke was a computer programmer at the University of Illinois' College of Veterinary Medicine. He said he submitted a job application through proper channels and said his cousin had nothing to do with his hiring. Transportation Department officials said his technology background suited the job.
In the state's Department of Employment Security, which is supposed to help people find jobs, Shawna Young, a 45-year-old woman whose husband has a real estate venture with Blagojevich fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko, secured an internship that turned into a job as a recruitment manager.
Before joining state government, Young worked for the Cook County chief judge's office organizing domestic violence training.
Before that, according to her state application, she worked as a sales associate at Neiman Marcus.
A Blagojevich aide acknowledged that Young did not have a great deal of experience before taking her job with the Employment Security Department, which is why she got the internship, which is typically used for college students. The aide said Rezko had nothing to do with her securing the state job.
In 2004, the executive inspector general investigated allegations of hiring irregularities that resulted in several workers being ousted from the Employment Security Department.
In one case, investigators found that an employee was hired for an opening in northwest Illinois but allowed to work in the Chicago headquarters, where he wanted to be, to avoid rules meant to favor military veterans for jobs.
Investigators blamed the incident on Georgia Brahos, a Mell supporter who was brought in as head of human relations in the department, administration officials said. She left the administration rather than be fired, a Blagojevich aide said. Brahos did not return calls.
`Proper systems' in place
Bradley Tusk, Blagojevich's deputy governor, said the actions "clearly show that proper systems were put in place and they worked."
The department did fire Brahos co-worker Surami Garcia, who was accused of telling job candidates to claim falsely they were in college in order to qualify for student jobs. A hearing officer for the state Civil Service Commission recently ruled Garcia should not be fired, and the full commission is considering her case.
Now Brahos is back in state government, but she's not on any Blagojevich payroll. Instead Brahos is working for Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, a Republican gearing up to run against Blagojevich.

New standards set for private prison companies in Colorado
posted by:  Dan  Werner  Web producer
Created: 11/12/2005 1:33 PM MST
DENVER (AP) - A private company that runs four prisons in Colorado has agreed to make changes to everything from staffing levels to food standards in response to a riot 14 months ago at its facility in Olney Springs. 
Corrections Corp. of America, the nation's largest private prison operator, signed new contracts with the Colorado Department of Corrections in September.
They also require better staff training and emergency preparedness, increased medical and mental health services for inmates and state takeover of inmates' financial accounts.
Similar requirements will apply to two other private prisons not run by CCA in Brush and Colorado Springs, which house more than 500 inmates. CCA prisons in Crowley County, Walsenburg, Las Animas and Burlington house about 3,300 of the more than 21,000 inmates in Colorado.
The new contracts allow the state to withhold payments to CCA, of Nashville, Tenn., if violations are found.
"Is this contract perfect? No, but this contract versus last year's contract, it's a whole new system," said Alison Morgan, head of a Department of Corrections monitoring team charged with ensuring contract compliance. "We've come a long way."
State officials who investigated the July 20, 2004, riot at the Crowley County Correctional Facility said all issues addressed in the new contracts may have fed the discontent leading to the violence and destruction by about 300 inmates.
A corrections department report released in October 2004 said the riot started when some inmates were denied a meeting with the warden to discuss unidentified complaints. Prisoners ransacked two cellhouses and prison offices and set dozens of fires. Several inmates were injured, including two seriously.
The report listed staff size and training as major concerns at the prison.
A Legislative Audit Committee report last April found other inequalities between conditions at state and private prisons that could led to future riots, such as differences in food portions and the higher amount paid to some out-of-state prisoners for their work.
CCA changed its menu to the one used by the state prisons' food service and will use Colorado standards on all out-of-state inmates, company spokesman Steve Owen said.
The company also has agreed to maintain staffs closer in size to those at comparable state-run, medium-security prisons, despite lower salaries compared with state prisons that have led to high employee turnover. CCA has raised salaries each year, even as Colorado's compensation has decreased since 2003 because of state budget cuts, Owen said.
"What it all boils down to is the audit calls for enhanced quality and enhanced accountability, and the contract addresses both," Owen said.


Union accuses prison system's investigators of intimidating members

Associated Press

A union representing tens of thousands of government workers across Illinois has accused the state prison system's investigative arm of illegally meddling in organized labor matters.

In complaints filed with the Illinois Labor Relations Board and the state inspector general, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees claims the Illinois Department of Corrections' Office of Investigation and Intelligence has used its police powers to harass and intimidate union members.

Specifically, the union says the office launched investigations of union officers concerning a protest against suggested pension changes and the content of a union newsletter.

Dede Short, a Department of Corrections spokeswoman, said the department was aware of the union's complaint and that "if there's any information or any allegations regarding inappropriate actions, we will look into it."

Rebecca Rausch, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rod Blagojevich, directed questions Thursday to the Department of Corrections.

In July, Buddy Maupin, an AFSCME regional director, requested in writing that the state's executive inspector general investigate the union's claims. But the office declined, saying in an Aug. 15 response that the union had not exhausted other administrative remedies.

The union awaits a hearing on its complaints to the Illinois Labor Relations Board, Maupin said. Messages left with the board Thursday were not immediately returned.

"This is police state stuff here," he said. "In a free society where people have the right to engage in protected activity, the excesses of police powers need to be put in check."

The Office of Investigation and Intelligence is largely devoted to such matters as rooting out details about possible prison riots, escapes, gang activity or assaults on prison officials. But the union's complaint to the inspector general, obtained by The Associated Press, alleges the office instead turned its attention to union members.

The complaint says AFSCME collected memos distributed through paychecks in April to more than 35,000 union members in which Blagojevich's budget director touted proposed changes to state pension benefits that the union opposed. Union officials asked prison wardens to return the memos to the budget director.

The next month, Maupin's complaint alleges, corrections investigators began quizzing AFSCME Local 993 president Russ Stunkel, a correctional officer at the Vandalia prison, about his role in the memo-collection drive.

Also in May, the union claims, the corrections unit started questioning officers of AFSCME Local 203 over various items written in the local's newsletter. Maupin described the items as "just run-of-the-mill."

"We have newsletters from time to time that a warden doesn't agree with," Maupin said. "If the warden has got a problem with a newsletter or employee, he's got every right to chew them out. But this is like squirrel hunting with a cannon."

Maupin's letter also notes an incident in July as AFSCME was preparing to strike against Wexford Health Sources, a Pittsburgh-based provider of health care to many Illinois prisons. Wexford contracted with Maxim Health Care Systems for possible fill-in workers. The union warned Maxim that it might be subject to picketing and tried to dissuade that company's workers from getting involved in the labor dispute.

Shortly thereafter, according to the union's complaint, corrections investigators questioned a AFSCME Local 2073 bargainer about her contact with Maxim and how she learned of its plans to provide workers to Wexford.

Ultimately, the state hired another provider and there was no strike.

No union worker has been disciplined as a result of the investigations, Maupin said.

"There was no merit to these investigations," he said. "They were just intended to harass, threaten and intimidate union leaders."

Staff worry about safety
Tuesday, November 8, 2005
By Karen Walters
DWIGHT -- Dwight Correctional Center officers fear fewer workers will lead to problems -- including escapes -- in the all-female prison.
Members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Union 1133 held an informational picket outside the center Monday to tell the public about what they feel is a safety hazard for the residents of Dwight and other communities.
"We are severely understaffed," said local president Randy Dominic. "The inmate-to-staff ratio is dangerously low. We don't want to have an inmate showing up on somebody's doorstep. We are fearful that it could become a reality."
Officials with the Department of Corrections don't believe the prison is understaffed or there is a safety concern.
"We feel that all our institutions are run safely and efficiently," said DOC spokeswoman Dede Short. "We have not seen any red flags. We have great staff working at all our prisons."
The local represents about 330 workers at the maximum security prison, which houses more than 1,000 inmates. Capacity is about 860.
The prison has specialized units for mentally ill, terminally ill and pregnant inmates.
Union members posted signs along the road that fronts the center, informing drivers about the conditions at the prisons. Up to 100 members stood outside the center.
Dominic said the picket was not just for Dwight, but 18 other prisons in the state experiencing the same problems.
"Our message is that we need funding and staff for the Department of Corrections," Dominic said. "Illinois has become one of the safest correctional systems in the United States, but we don't want to go back in time."
Union officials believe the prison is short 100 employees, 60 of whom are from the security department.
Kathy Kissiar, a staff assistant in medical records, said short-staffing is causing problems in giving inmates health care.
"We have a good team, but the team is wore thin and wore out," she said. "You just never know what is going to happen."
Short said there is no staff shortage.
"Every day we are looking at what positions need to be filled," Short said. "Staff levels have remained fairly stable."
Dominic said in the last week alone, there have been seven incidents where an inmate has attacked an officer. He said inmate-on-inmate attacks are also increasing.
"An unsafe prison makes for an unsafe community," he said. "We understand there is a budget crisis right now, but the governor and the legislature needs to fund and staff corrections properly, otherwise a lot of bad stuff is going to happen."


Alton man dies in boating accident 
MAGGIE BORMAN , For The Telegraph 
WHITE HALL -- The body of an 80-year-old Alton man was recovered in the White Hall Reservoir Thursday following what appears to be a boating accident at a popular Greene County fishing spot.
White Hall Police Chief Rob McMillen said the man’s pickup and driver’s license enabled his department to notify the man’s wife and to try to determine if he had been fishing alone Thursday or with others at the reservoir, which is about one mile east of White Hall.

"His wife told us she did not know if he was alone or not," McMillen said.
Greene County Coroner Dean Bishop declined to release the victim’s name until he had permission to do so from the victim’s wife. Bishop said the wife was still contacting family members late Thursday night.
Bishop, who said an inquest will be scheduled at a later date, left the scene about 4:10 p.m. to attend an autopsy of the victim at a Springfield hospital. The cause of death was not available.
McMillen said inmates from the Illinois Department of Corrections’ Work Camp, located just north of White Hall, were working at the White Hall reservoir when they noticed a small, empty fishing boat bobbing on the water. They called the White Hall Police Department at 12:15 p.m. Thursday.
Illinois Conservation Officer Mark Wagner said White Hall Police Officer Jack Wallis responded to the scene where he saw an air bubble near the small vessel.
"Officer Wallis and the inmates formed a human chain and went into the water on the northeast side of the reservoir and discovered the body of a large, black male in approximately five feet of water," ner said.
From the start of the search to locate additional victims until 4:10 p.m. Thursday afternoon, the White Hall Fire and Rescue performed dragging operations and the Morgan County Search and Rescue Teams’ divers searched in the water as others on the team trolled the water from boats.
"The Alton Police Department and the victim’s daughter are going door to door in his neighborhood checking on friends who may have accompanied him fishing today," Wagner said as the operation ended a little after 4 p.m. "We still don’t know if anyone else was in the boat. We haven’t determined the cause of the accident, but it remains under investigation," he said.
"However, he was a big man in a small boat, the water is cold, and today was very windy, with winds at 15 to 20 miles an hour, and the water was very rough," Wagner continued. "That all may have contributed to the accident."
White Hall Mayor Tom Lakin, who came to the site when he returned home from work in mid-afternoon, said the elderly victim was a frequent visitor to the White Hall reservoir.
"This is really sad, as the gentleman seemed to really enjoy fishing here," Lakin said.

Lawmakers approve new prison department for juveniles
Nov 4, 2005
Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Young criminals would be supervised by a new state prison department just for them under legislation approved Friday by lawmakers trying to improve a juvenile justice system that one called a "disgrace."
The Senate voted 42-16 Friday for the measure establishing the new Department of Juvenile Justice. The House approved the idea Thursday, so it heads to Gov. Rod Blagojevich's desk.
Blagojevich promised to sign the bill into law, saying it will help put children on the right path.
The state Department of Corrections currently houses about 1,500 youth offenders in eight juvenile facilities in its massive prison system. The juvenile system has an annual budget of more than $120 million.
Advocates for the new department argue the current system treats youths like adults and often as an afterthought. Supporters contend that approach leads nearly half of young offenders to return to prison upon their release.
"Obviously, this system doesn't work and it really is a disgrace," said Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale. "This bill will save money, but most importantly it will save lives."
Advocates say the change will improve services, such as education and drug abuse treatment, without increasing the state's financial burden.
They argue the new agency will use the same number of employees that Corrections now devotes to juvenile offenders and perhaps work more efficiently by focusing on a single mission. The administration's official estimate of the cost says the change will not increase state expenses.
The legislation moves the Corrections Department youth facilities and their budget into a new department run by new administrators. Current rank-and-file employees will be shifted to the new department, which will be operating next summer.
The major state employees' union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and other critics balked at the move. They fear it would put employees' benefits and job rights in danger, although lawmakers put in provisions to protect them.
They also say the new department will create more administrative excess without providing the extra resources needed to help youths overcome their problems.
"Creating another bureaucracy is not going to resolve the problem," said Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield. "Putting money in the current system will."
Supporters argue those criticisms stem from the wrong motivations.
"We have to stop looking at Corrections and prisons as economic engines," said Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago. "Stop protecting jobs against doing the right thing for juveniles."

Cool-down ordered by governor: Blagojevich wants state facilities to lower thermostats in order to save natural gas
29 Oct 2005
Southern Illinois has had some mild winters in recent years and state employees are probably hoping that pattern holds true again this year. If not, state employees should probably keep a close eye on the Farmer's Almanac or perhaps invest in a pair of long johns.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich last week ordered state facilities, including 84 different facilities in the bottom one-third of the state, to lower thermostats in order to decrease the amount of natural gas that is consumed statewide.
Geoff Potter, a spokesperson with the Illinois Department of Central Management, said the cool-down will run from Nov. 1 through April 15, 2006, and will save Illinois $4 million in natural gas heating costs.
Potter said lowering thermostats at state-operated buildings to 68 degrees during the day and 55 degrees at night in the counties of Jackson, Williamson and Franklin will result in an overall savings of more than $60,000 in costs to the state.
"It's a very substantial savings to the state, along with the fact that the state is helping to conserve natural gas consumption," said Potter. "Those numbers might change a little based on what buildings might be added or subtracted, but this is our first step."
In a press release Blagojevich said that last fiscal year the state spent $24 million to heat buildings.
"We're doing the same thing here in state government that we're asking all Illinois families to this winter. We're lowering the thermostat to conserve energy, to keep our winter heating bills down," Blagojevich said in a prepared statement.
More than 2,000 state facilities will lower daytime temperatures from 72 degrees to 68. During the night, the thermostat will be lowered to 55 degrees. For state prisons and military barracks, the temperature will remain at 68 degrees around the clock.
Potter said the agencies involved in Southern Illinois will run the gamut and will include Central Management, Department of Natural Resources, and Department of Corrections administrative offices and Department of Public Health.
Anders Lindall, a spokesperson with the American Federation of State, County, Municipal Employee Council 31, said the state's largest union, supports the proposal but cautioned that flexibility will be essential.
"We hope the policy will be flexible given the fact that some state office buildings are older, in disrepair and may have poor insulation," Lindall said.
Potter said state universities are not required to follow the guidelines and added that the state is mostly targeting office buildings and warehouses and will not be requiring facilities like homeless shelters to comply.

Safety On Display
4 Oct 2005
By Doug Wilson

Herald-Whig Senior Writer

RUSHVILLE, Ill. — Crowds that went through the Rushville prison generally want the facility in use and the region benefiting from jobs it will create.

As hundreds of people toured the prison Monday the comments were fairly consistent. Most people don't believe there's much risk of an escape. Others talked about the hundreds of jobs it would provide. Some talked about sewer, water and other payments that will be going to the city or local utility companies.

"People who are talking to me about this are overwhelmingly in support" of putting the prison in use, said Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville.

That support was evident after a Sept. 15 meeting in Rushville where more than 300 people heard about plans that could move a program for sexually violent prisoners to Rushville.

Although the Rushville complex was built to be a maximum security detention facility for juveniles, it has been vacant since construction was completed in May 2003. State officials say they don't need another juvenile facility because of new efforts to keep young offenders in their home communities.

Monday's tours were set up for people interested in seeing the prison and deciding whether they want legislators to pursue the relocation of the sexually violent treatment facility from Joliet to Rushville. After hearing from many of the people taking the tour, Sullivan felt he had his answer.

"They're really impressed with the facility, amazed at the security precautions ... and they think it would be a good place to work," Sullivan said.

Tammy Graybill and Sandy Hays agree. They work at the Joliet treatment facility for sexually violent prisoners. That center is crowded with about 240 inmates, many housed in pairs in cells designed for one person. Both women went to Rushville for the tour.

"This is wonderful. It would work much better" than the Joliet site, said Hays, a security therapy aid 2.

Hays works in control units at Joliet and paid particular attention to the control units where guards could control doors at Rushville.

Graybill has worked at Joliet since the state created a treatment program for sexually violent prisoners in the late 1990s. She would consider moving to Rushville if the community and the state go forward with plans to bring the treatment program to Schuyler County.

Graybill said the inmates at Joliet are generally focused on getting along and going through therapy sessions. They know unless they successfully complete their treatment, they won't be allowed back in society. Illinois has a law that keeps sexually violent prisoners locked up until they are no longer deemed a threat.

One large tour group got an unexpected bit of realism. Monahan had taken the group into a cell unit for a glimpse at where inmates would stay. When it came time to leave the door had swung shut.

"I don't have the keys," Monahan reminded his tour group.

Sullivan was contacted by cell phone and sent help within a few minutes.

The prison is both impressive and intimidating. Much of the building is painted in shades of gray. Identical gymnasiums are located on the north and south sides of the complex. Carpets on the gym floors keep the rooms quiet and also cut down on injuries.

Cells are small, but set up for efficiency. Stainless steel sinks and stools are in one corner of each cell. Bunks attach to the back wall. A small table with attached seat is against a wall. Doors have vertical slit windows behind protective glass. Light from the outside comes in through horizontal slit windows located far above the floor.

A fully equipped kitchen stands ready for use. A laundry also is in place.

Chain link fences around the prison have razor wire on top and in large rolls at lower levels to prevent prisoners from cutting through the wire.

Sergio Molina with the Illinois Department of Correction pointed out the many television monitoring devices in ceilings and walls.

Sullivan said the next step is for him to meet with Rep. Art Tenhouse, R-Liberty, and Rep. Rich Myers, R-Colchester, and state officials. If all parties have received favorable feedback the plan to seek the Joliet prisoners may begin in earnest.

An estimated 200 people would be employed by the Department of Human Services, if the prison comes to town. The pay scale would be the same as in the Department of Corrections with most employees earning close to $30,000 in their first year after training.

Unionized workers would have a chance to bid on jobs at the prison, but would generally be capped at no more than 25 percent of the jobs available.

Lost keys put prison on 4-day lockdown
29 Sept 2005
SPRINGFIELD — An assistant prison warden’s lost set of keys prompted a four-day lockdown at Jacksonville Correctional Center, but a search there proved fruitless, an Illinois Department of Corrections spokesman said Thursday.
Among the missing keys is a "master key" that can open doors to various offices, cell houses and two locked wings at the prison, said Corrections spokesman Sergio Molina. The master key also provides access to Department of Corrections work camps at Greene County and Pittsfield, he said.
Jacksonville Assistant Warden Neil Rossi reported the keys missing last Friday, and a lockdown confining inmates to their cells began that day, Molina said. The keys did not turn up during a search, and the lockdown ended Monday.
Molina said Rossi had turned over the keys to another employee at the Jacksonville prison on April 8 because Rossi was being temporarily reassigned to the department’s central office. At the central office, Rossi supervised background investigations for new Corrections employees.
Molina would not identify the employee to whom Rossi turned over his keys. Both remain on the job, and Corrections is investigating what happened, he said, adding that disciplinary action is possible.
The keys could have been lost anytime between April 8 and last Friday, Molina acknowledged. They were not necessarily lost at the prison, he said.
"These keys are authorized to be taken home," he said.
The key ring included about 10 keys. Molina said he does not know how many locks the keys could open, but the figure could be in the hundreds. Some locks might be changed as a result of the missing keys, he said.
While Corrections officials are "very concerned" about the loss of any keys in a prison, Molina said, "We don’t believe this poses a serious threat to the safety of the facility."
Security personnel are assigned throughout the prison, and the missing keys would not open the electronic doors that everyone must pass through before entering or leaving the facility, he said.
The Jacksonville prison, classified as "high minimum security," opened in October 1984, according to the Department of Corrections Web site. It has a listed capacity of 900 and an average daily population of about 1,400 adult male inmates.
Meanwhile, a new warden is scheduled to take over Friday at Jacksonville. Mark J. Jones, who had been an assistant warden, becomes warden. He replaces former Jacksonville warden J.R. Walls, who will become assistant warden of operations at Logan Correctional Center.
The reassigning of Walls is unrelated to the loss of the keys, Molina said.
"We had planned on making administrative changes at Jacksonville," he said. "That’s been in the works for some time now."

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