State task force will look into future of Tamms facility

A Southern Illinois legislator hopes the Tamms Minimum Security Unit will see renewed purpose under his legislation that was signed in to law on Friday, Aug. 23. 

State Sen. Dale Fowler, R-Harrisburg, said that House Bill 210 seeks to identify potential uses of the currently unoccupied Tamms Correctional Center.

House Bill 210, which passed the Senate unanimously, creates a task force to study the possible use of the Tamms Minimum Security Unit as a vocational training center for the Illinois Department of Corrections, DOC. 

The measure was signed Aug. 23 by Gov. JB. Pritzker.

The task force is required to submit its findings to the governor and the Illinois General Assembly on or before Dec. 31, 2020.

“As of today, Tamms is sitting underutilized and vacant, adding to the continuous drain on resources and overlooking the potential within the facility complex,” Fowler said in an Aug. 27 news release which was posted on his website.

“This legislation authorizes a task force to explore avenues for repurposing the center, taking the first steps toward reopening Tamms and bringing future opportunity for economic growth to the region.”

The Tamms Minimum Security Unit Task Force will meet twice a year and consists of 11 members, including four legislators, the director of the Illinois Department of Corrections, DOC, or a designee, one member appointed by the lieutenant governor, one member representing DOC employees, one member representing Shawnee Community College, one member representing Southern Illinois University, the mayor of Tamms and one member representing Alexander County.

Tamms Correctional Center, which consists of approximately 220 acres with 21 buildings, has remained closed since 2013.

State Rep. Patrick Windhorst, R-Metropolis, and State Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, had joined in supporting creation of the task force.

“As the chief cosponsor of HB 210, I want to thank Representative Bryant and Senator Fowler for their leadership and assistance in passing this very important piece of legislation unanimously through both the House and Senate,” Windhorst said in a news release posted on his website.

Windhorst said the task force’s creation is a vital first step in determining how best to use the vacant facility.

“Right now the facility has untapped potential,” Windhorst said. 

“If the task force determines it to be feasible, I can see a great potential for positive outcomes for repurposing the minimum security facility into a place where incarcerated individuals can learn important life skills that will help them transition back into being a productive member of society.”

Windhorst said that reopening the Tamms minimum security facility “could also help to alleviate overcrowding, make our correctional officers safer, and provide good paying jobs to an area that has been economically devastated.”

Earlier this year, Bryant earned unanimous support from the Illinois House of Representatives for legislation to create the task force.

“Reopening and repurposing the minimum security facility in Tamms could be helpful in reducing our crowded prison population, and would provide badly needed, good paying jobs” for Southern Illinois residents, Bryant said at the time.

The Gazette-Democrat

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