Prisons Chief Announces Plan to Ease Tensions, Violence

Article excerpt

More than 300 inmates will be transferred away from Pontiac's maximum-security prison to help reduce violence against guards. The president of the local guards union, however, predicts that and other changes will do little good.

The prison also will get an additional 46 "segregation beds" where violent inmates can be kept isolated, Illinois Corrections Department Director Odie Washington said.

Dan Jarrett, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 494, said the increased segregation space will help but that the drop in population was bound to be temporary. The prison needs more segregation space, more staff and a tougher attitude, he said. Jarrett criticized Washington for not working more closely with the union. "No one knew what was going on today," Jarrett said. "We were told a couple of weeks ago we were supposed to work things out together. All of a sudden the director does his own thing." AFSCME has long pushed for additional guards at Illinois' overcrowded prisons. The prisons were designed to hold less than 23,000 inmates but now contain more than 38,000. Washington said that creates dangerous conditions: frustrated inmates, a shortage of jobs for them and lack of room in educational programs. Four guards at the Pontiac Correctional Center have been stabbed since Jan. …