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Guards Outnumber Prisoners, Still Paid Overtime at Illinois Supermax

Prison officials at the Tamms Correctional Center in southern Illinois, which includes the state's only supermax prison, are having a hard time explaining how staff racked up $884,000 in overtime between November 2011 and November 2012 when the facility’s guard-to-prisoner ratio is 1.5-to-1.

To call this facility inefficient is putting it mildly," said Brooke Anderson, a spokeswoman for Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn.

There are just 138 prisoners in Tamms' solitary confinement, or "C-max," unit since a judge halted prisoner transfers there last year until a lawsuit between the guards' union and Quinn's office is settled. And yet, to manage those prisoners, who spend 23 hours a day in their cells and have no contact with other prisoners, Tamms C-max employs 208 guards, including two-dozen lieutenants, eight sergeants and four shift commanders.

Somehow, they managed to be paid overtime.

According to Anders Lindall, spokesman for the guards' union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the guards are entitled to be employed somewhere, and closing Tamms' C-max would make other prisons around the state more dangerous.

But a state arbitrator disagrees and ruled in October that Tamms C-max prisoners could be transferred to solitary units at other state prisons.

Until then, Tamms Warden Gregory Lambert continues earning $93,732 annually, and his executive secretary had already been paid $54,312 in the first 11 months of 2012. Tamms also employs 16 food supervisors, each earning an average of $71,600 a year, though most of the meals come pre-cooked in cans or packages from a Florida wholesaler. And while religious services aren't even held at Tamms, a chaplain is paid $74,650 annually.

"I don't know why there would be 16 food supervisors at Tamms," said Republican state Rep. Dennis Reboletti, a member of the House Prison Reform Committee. "We need to look into these staffing levels."

Laurie Jo Reynolds, a human-rights advocate and vocal opponent of Tamms C-max, criticized the isolation at Tamms that extends even to educational programs, with instructors conducting GED classes through the mail.

"Welcome to the AFSCME prison state: 16 food supervisors microwave packaged meals, two full-time GED instructors see no students, and 13 nurses monitor men on suicide watch due to sensory deprivation," Reynolds said. "Meanwhile, the full security staff guards a two-thirds empty prison."

Source: Belleville News-Democrat

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