City council opposes prison closure

Donelle Pardee Whiting

Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s recent decision to put Pontiac Correctional Center on the chopping block would leave nine Washington residents without a job.

In addition, four Washington Township residents would also face the possibility of moving out of the area, Ben Dallas said to city council members Monday night.

Dallas, a Washington resident, is a lieutenant at the Pontiac facility, a Washington auxiliary police officer and a Washington Community High School graduate.

Dallas asked council members to pass a resolution stating city officials were against closing the maximum security facility.

“If we have to move because of losing our jobs, Washington will lose” the revenue brought in by people shopping in Washington, Dallas said.

He added that in addition to the Washington and township residents, there are nine residents in Eureka who also work at the prison and shop in Washington.

“There are a total of 54 families in Woodford County (with jobs at the prison) who shop in Washington,” Dallas said.

Blagojevich’s original plan was to close Stateville Correctional Center; however, shortly after it was decided to put the Pontiac prison up for closure.

According to reports, closing an Illinois Department of Corrections facility is a cost saving measure.

However, Dallas said the state has more to lose by closing Pontiac.

Dallas said despite reports that Pontiac is a 130-year-old facility, the only thing old about the prison is the land.

“Pontiac is a state-of-the-art facility,” he added.

Dallas sais Pontiac is a single-cell facility that is designed to handle the most dangerous inmates.

The prison is also designed for housing prisoners in need of mental health care and who are in protective custody.

Should Pontiac close, the prisoners housed there would be transferred to Stateville and Pickneyville Correctional Center.

Dallas said he does not advocate closing any Illinois facility because of the dangers the increased prison overcrowding would create.

According to the resolution presented by Dallas, IDOC reports Pontiac is in need of extensive and costly repairs.

However, Dallas said, the repairs and renovations to the facility have already been made and IDOC has not provided evidence to support its claim.

Dallas said he chooses to live in Washington because he has roots in the city.

“I like it here,” he added.

Council members voted to approve and sign the resolution opposing the closing of Pontiac Correctional Center.

Alderman Donald Brubaker said he is 100 percent behind the resolution.