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updated: 6/29/2012 5:55 PM

Quinn asks federal government to buy Tamms prison

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  • Gov. Pat Quinn has offered to sell the 700-resident Tamms Correctional Center in downstate Tamms to the federal government.

      Gov. Pat Quinn has offered to sell the 700-resident Tamms Correctional Center in downstate Tamms to the federal government.
    ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

  • Gov. Pat Quinn speaks with reporters in his office at the State Capitol in Springfield earlier this month.

      Gov. Pat Quinn speaks with reporters in his office at the State Capitol in Springfield earlier this month.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Pat Quinn is offering to sell the Tamms prison he plans to close to the federal government, marking the second time in less than three years that he's courted Washington to buy a state penitentiary.

In a letter dated Friday and obtained by The Associated Press, Quinn tells the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons that the 14-year-old supermax lockup would be a "valuable addition" to the U.S. correctional system.

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"Tamms is located in a rural area without major growth around the perimeter of the facility, which adds to the secured environment, but it enjoys access to the Interstate system located only a few miles away," Quinn wrote to federal prisons director Charles Samuels.

The offer was made the same day Quinn received budget legislation that includes money to keep the 14-year-old Tamms open. The state's financial year begins Sunday. Aides said he was reviewing the budget but would not indicate when he would sign it.

A sale that keeps Tamms open "could impact employment in that area, and that's positive news," Quinn budget spokeswoman Kelly Kraft said.

Federal prison spokeswoman Traci Billingsley would not comment on the Tamms offer but said the agency often tries to buy state facilities when they are adequate and there is available money.

Money is the holdup in a federal purchase of Illinois' maximum-security prison at Thomson. Quinn pitched the transaction in 2009. Thomson was completed in 2001, but Illinois never fully opened it because of budget problems.

Quinn's decision to close Tamms despite lawmakers' budgeting money for the prison has angered southern Illinois lawmakers worried about losing jobs around Alexander County, one of the state's most impoverished.

Tamms was opened in 1998 to house "the worst of the worst" -- inmates who were violent or caused other trouble in general-population penitentiaries. But Quinn said it is too expensive to run, and many prison advocates oppose its practice of round-the-clock isolation for its inmates.

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