Thursday, April 5, 2012

Join the Fight Save Dwight Prison!

  Worried that Dwight Correctional Center may close but determined to prevent it, about 200 people turned out to picket. They lined Illinois 17 in front of the prison just west of town, waving signs matching their T-shirts and chanting as passing drivers honked in support.

 On February 22, 2012 Gov. Pat Quinn proposed to close the maximum security women’s prison in my hometown Dwight, IL by August 31, 2012 due to budget cuts. Dwight prison houses approx 1,000 maximum security women inmates. IDOC employs approx 350 workers total. According to the Dwight newspaper, 142 live in Livingston County, 76 live in Kankakee County, 60 live in LaSalle County, 21 live in Grundy County, and 59 live in Dwight. Quinn has estimated that closing the prison would save approx. $37.3 million a year. The Greater Livingston County Economic Development Council estimates, however, it would cost the region more than 700 jobs and about $45 million annually in economic activity. Each of the 1,000 inmates would be transferred downstate to Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln, IL.  If these closures happen without alternative facilities coming on line, female correctional facilities will be operating at 183% over their design capacity. Moreover, the conversion of Logan to a woman’s facility would simply worsen overcrowding in male facilities around the state.

Dwight was built as a female facility, with specialized units to address its diverse population. Closing Dwight means closing the only female facility in the state with the capacity to house maximum security inmates, and the only Reception and Classification Center for female inmates. Dwight prison has a lot of different great programs to help educate and rehabilitate the offenders. However, by closing the prison the inmates will no longer have the great opportunity of taking advantage of these wonderful programs. Dwight run’s a unique inmate training program called Helping Paws. This program first began at Dwight Correctional Center in 2000; it is a service dog training program in partnership with MidAmerican Service Dogs' Foundation. The program teaches life and job skills to the offenders as they live and work with the dogs 24 hours a day. The program also runs a grooming program that services both staff and community dogs.

  If Dwight is closed, these local connections that make these programs possible will be disrupted. Dwight also offers academic and behavioral programs, including adult basic education, pre-GED and GED classes, religious observances, substance abuse treatment, parenting classes, mental health treatment groups, and treatment for sexual abuse.  DOC tries to maintain and strengthen family ties by allowing as frequent and barrier free visiting. Facilitating these relationships is the key factor for both the children and their mothers. If the inmates have to move further away from the facility they may not have the opportunity to see their families anymore.

As a result, please take the time to sign a petition to save the Dwight prison. If the Dwight prison closes, my home town will soon become a ghost town due to how small it is. The prison is one of the main reasons Dwight is still operating today.

 The women posing with their dogs
Dwight, IL (The Paper) Newspaper-


  1. After touring some of the prisons for my corrections class & seeing how different the facilities for male and female prisoners are it seems ridiculous for us to close the only women's prison we have. Especially when we have a prison sitting unused! Plus it sounds like closing the doors will impact the local economy and job market. I know the state needs money but perhaps we should look to other cutbacks before this one.

  2. It is hard to understand what Govern Quinn plans to do with the female inmates if he were to close Dwight Prison. By relocating these inmates to other facilities he is just creating a larger problem. It will still cost the same amount of money to care for the inmates and the issue of overcrowding will eventually become too large of a burden to hide. The conditions at the overcrowded prisons will result in cruel and unusual punishment for the inmates and as a result they will either have to relocate inmates to a new facility or return them to an existing structure.

    I agree, the debt in which our fine state has accumulated needs to be dealt with, but removing resources from the criminal justice system is not the answer. I have also toured Dwight Prison for my Corrections class and it appeared the treatment programs were effectively assisting many of the inmates. But if the facility is closed and inmates are transferred to other prisons many of the existing treatment programs will be over burden with participants, and as a result, will probably be shut down or become ineffective. I hope the governor will come to his senses and find another way to treat the state's debt and leave the prison system alone.

  3. I was in Dwight a couple of weeks ago and saw all the signs. I connected this to what happened at Pontiac a couple of years ago. The closing of the womens facility at Dwight would be detrimental to that small town. The way the DOC is run in Illinois doesnt make any sense.

  4. I would have to agree with everyone else closing the Dwight facility is crazy. I understand budget cuts but they need to look else where for cuts. It doesn't make any sense to close the one female prison in the state.