December 11, 2012

Supreme Court lifts closure injunction

Update, 12/19: In Cairo today, Judge Charles Cavaness dissolved the injunction obtained by the union to halt Governor Pat Quinn's administration from taking steps to close Dwight and Tamms Correctionals Centers, Joliet and Murphysboro Youth Centers, and Decatur, Southern Illinois and West Side (Chicago) ATCs following an order from the Illinois Supreme Court (below).

But Judge Cavaness also denied the Quinn Administration's motion to dismiss the union's underlying lawsuit over employee health and safety. AFSCME will be able to continue to seek a legal remedy that addresses the dangerous conditions that the closures will cause throughout the prison system.

Within hours of the injunction being lifted, Council 31 received notice from IDOC that it intends to proceed with the closures of Tamms CC,  Decatur ATC, Westside ATC and Southern ATC, effective January 5.  The department indicated that no date had yet been set for the closure of Dwight CC. DJJ has informed the union that it will proceed with the closure of IYC Murphysboro effective January 4. No mention was made of IYC Joliet.

This will be an extremely difficult time for employees directly impacted by the closures—and for those who will face more dangerous conditions at their facilities. AFSCME Council 31 will continue to do everything possible to prevent these closures and call public attention to the increasingly dangerous and destabilizing conditions that exist in the Illinois correctional system.

Original post, 12/11: By a 4-3 vote, the Illinois Supreme Court has ordered the Fifth District Appellate Court to direct the Alexander County Circuit Court to lift the injunction that has been blocking the closures of two prisons, two youth centers and three adult transition centers.

When Governor Quinn vetoed funding from the FY 2013 budget to keep the facilities operational and began the closure process this summer, AFSCME sought and won, first a temporary restraining order and then a preliminary injunction which have prevented the closures from moving forward. The Quinn Administration had already appealed the injunction to the Supreme Court and lost.  This time the court apparently gave more credence to the Administration's request because an arbitrator had ruled on the Union's grievances relevant to the closures.

However, as the dissenting justices noted, the Union has appealed the arbitrator's decision to the circuit court and so there is a basis for the injunction to remain in place. Justice Kilbride, in his dissent, said that " my opinion, the parties, the court, and the interests of justice would be better served by denying the request for supervisory relief [directing that the injunction be lifted] and letting the parties raise their respective arguments in the lower courts."

Dissenting justices were Kilbride, Theis and Burke.

The Union will continue to pursue its lawsuit seeking to overturn the arbitrator's decision which dismissed the Union's claim that the closures presented a health and safety risk throughout the corrections system. That case is currently before Judge Cavaness in Alexander County.

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