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Task force created to study repurposing of Tamms prison

TAMMS (WSIL) — A new task force will look at ways to repurpose the former Tamms Supermax Prison.

Millions of dollars would be needed to get the former Tamms Supermax Prison in a useable state due to issues with mold and the removal of equipment for use at other state facilities.

RELATED: Report says high levels of mold found at Tamms prison

State Rep. Patrick Windhorst (R-Metropolis) said it’s worth a shot to at least get some of the property up and running again.

"Making it a useful piece of property is important, number one," Windhorst said. "And number two, the jobs that would be brought could and would help Alexander County, Pulaski County, Union and others see an economic benefit."

A task force created by House Bill 210 will look at ways to reopen the minimum security portion of the prison. Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the bill August 23.

State leaders closed the facility in 2013 to cut costs and because of reports of inhumane conditions.

"There was really not much thought given to the minimum security portion, so we believe this would be an easier process trying to open something that probably shouldn’t have been closed in the first place," Windhorst said.

Several southern Illinois lawmakers co-sponsored the bill, including State Sen. Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg).

“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 a statement.

State Rep. Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro) is also a sponsor, along with former representative Jerry Costello and State Sen. Pat McQuire (D-Crest Hill).

AFSCME spokesman Jeremy Noelle said there were around 325 people employed at the prison when it closed.

"That’s an economically depressed area and they were depending on these jobs," Noelle said. "There were several businesses that shut down totally because they depended on the workers coming in on and off shifts."

The bill specifically said the task force will try to come up with a plan to use the minimum security unit as a vocational training center for the department of corrections, although Windhorst says it’s too early to tell just what the task force will recommend.

Both he and Noelle want a solution that brings some of those jobs back to Tamms.

All of the different groups, plus the lieutenant governor, will nominate their representatives to the task force and then they’ll work on the study until December of next year, at the latest.

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