Overtime costs at prison skyrocket

TAMMS – The supermax prison that Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is looking to close for budgetary reasons is paying out hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime to its security staff despite having more guards than inmates, according to a newspaper report.

The Tamms Correctional Center in Alexander County has 208 guards and supervisors in its maximum-security unit that houses 138 inmates.

Yet state payroll records show that security staff has clocked at least $884,000 in overtime over a one-year period ending Nov. 12, the Belleville News-Democrat reported. Inmates in the solitary-confinement unit are kept in their cells for all but an hour each day,

The Tamms lockup also has 16 food supervisors – the same number of food supervisors at the 1,700-inmate Pontiac Correctional Center – and each earn an average of $71,600 a year.

Several state lawmakers expressed surprise about the costs of what national prison consultant Tim Gravette called “excessive” staffing.

“Who’s running things down there? I never heard about any of this,” said state Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton.

The newspaper said Illinois Department of Corrections figures show there are a total of 300 employees at the entire Tamms operation, which includes an adjacent minimum-security camp with 89 inmates and about 13 guards. The annual combined payroll is roughly $18.7 million.

Quinn put Tamms on a list of state correctional sites targeted for closure, though an Alexander County judge has temporarily blocked that after the union representing the prison’s guards challenged it. A hearing is scheduled for Dec. 10 in Cook County Circuit Court, near Chicago.

“To call this facility inefficient is putting it mildly,” said Brooke Anderson, a Quinn spokeswoman.

The newspaper said guarding each maximum security Tamms inmate costs an average of about $85,000 annually – excluding overtime. Taxpayers pay between $15,000 and $24,000 for all costs per inmate annually at most of Illinois’ other prisons.

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