Why Rauner can't close suburban youth prisons immediately

  • If Gov. Bruce Rauner wanted to close the Illinois Youth Center in St. Charles, he'd have to wait for the results of a hearing.

    If Gov. Bruce Rauner wanted to close the Illinois Youth Center in St. Charles, he'd have to wait for the results of a hearing. Daily Herald File Photo

 
 
Updated 6/3/2015 4:39 PM

If Gov. Bruce Rauner picks a suburban youth prison to close, the move likely would spark a tense hearing that would slow the decision process down.

Rauner's office said Wednesday that he wants to close up to two of the state's youth prisons and that centers in St. Charles and Warrenville would be among those considered.

 

Under state law, the move toward closure would trigger a two-month review process to let local workers, community members and others weigh in. It's a process that has been seen downstate several times in recent years as governors have targeted prisons.

The process typically peaks with a lengthy public hearing that can turn emotional.

"It can be a difficult process," said state Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat and member of the commission that would hold the hearing. "But it's very important."

In the end, the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability issues an opinion about whether a facility should close, but a governor can proceed either way, no matter the opinion.

Rauner's move is intended to address a budget hole resulting in his standoff with Democratic lawmakers over state spending, but a review process would hold up any cost savings.

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Rauner met with members of his cabinet Wednesday to talk about further state contingency plans. If Rauner doesn't sign a budget from lawmakers by July 1, the state loses a lot of its authority to spend money.

"I'm sorry your jobs are about to get a lot harder," Rauner told his agency heads.

In the end, both suburban youth centers could be spared from closure. St. Charles is the state's biggest youth center and Warrenville is the only one that has an all-female population.

Plus, the suburban sites are represented by Republican lawmakers, and Rauner might have more political interest in putting pressure on Democrats than members of his own party.

The Illinois House is set to reconvene Thursday.

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