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updated: 12/12/2012 8:00 AM

State Supreme Court sides with Quinn on prison closures

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By John O’Connor
Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD -- The Illinois Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the lifting of an injunction that has been blocking Gov. Pat Quinn from closing state prisons.

In a split decision, the high court gave explicit instructions to a court in the far southern Illinois community of Tamms, where one of the prisons is located, to lift a preliminary injunction that was granted to a state workers' union trying to keep the prisons open.

Three of the seven justices dissented, saying they believe the court was overstepping its bounds with the ruling, which recognizes an independent arbitrator's decision that Quinn had followed the rules in his facility-closure plans. Justice Mary Jane Theis said the court should have sent the matter back to the court in Alexander County for further arguments.

"Clearly, this case is far from over," wrote Theis, noting that the legal tussle between Quinn and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees continues with legal action in other courts.

Neither spokesmen for Quinn and AFSCME was immediately aware of the ruling or had a comment.

Quinn had planned to close prisons in Tamms, Dwight and elsewhere in August in an effort to save money. AFSCME sued in Alexander County. A judge there halted the closure plan until an arbitrator decided if Quinn had followed proper procedures with the labor union in shuttering state facilities.

The arbitrator found that Quinn had negotiated with the union in good faith.

AFSCME argues that the state's prison system is too crowded to allow for closing facilities and that moving dangerous inmates from the high-security Tamms prison puts public safety at risk.

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