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Panel to cast nonbinding vote on closing Dwight prison

Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012 10:44 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, April 26, 2012 3:06 p.m. CDT

DWIGHT (MCT) — A legislative panel will vote Tuesday on Gov. Pat Quinn's plan to close the Dwight Correctional Center, a nonbinding recommendation that will be sent to the governor.

"We are all very anxious for Tuesday," said Dwight City Administrator Kevin McNamara. "We're all somewhat nervous, too."

The bipartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability will meet at 10 a.m. in Room 400 of the Capitol Building in Springfield. The hearing may be streamed live online, but details have not yet been announced.

McNamara was among a group of Dwight and area leaders who met with members of the panel and members of the House and Senate appropriations committees Monday.

"We were just trying to shake the bushes a little and make sure are concerns were heard by those who make the decisions," he said.

The commission's recommendation is non-binding, but Quinn spokesman Kelly Kraft said the governor would take the recommendations under advisement. Eight other state facilities are also on Quinn's list.

On April 4, the panel heard testimony from dozens of representatives of government, labor, the business community, health care, churches and the general public in a public hearing at Dwight High School.

"Dwight's supporters turned out in full force and they made their voices heard," said state Sen. Shane Cultra, whose 53rd District includes Dwight. "We are optimistic about the COGFA vote, because it simply does not make sense to shutter any correctional centers with the Illinois correctional system's severe overcrowding and understaffing."

In November, the same panel recommended the Lincoln Correctional Center should remain open. Weeks later, legislators cut a deal with the governor to keep it open.

"We were told that about 90 percent of the time, the panel recommends keeping the facility open," McNamara said. "But everyone is looking for ways to cut expenses, so nothing is for certain."

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