State Senator Frank Watson (R-Greenville) says hes disappointed the Illinois Department of Corrections (DOC) is proceeding with its ill-conceived plan to close the farm operation at the Vandalia Correctional Center (VCC), but hes hopeful commitments to enhance the Beverage and Meat Processing plants stabilizes the facility for the future.
No jobs are being lost in their plan to close the farm, Watson said, But I believe it should remain operational and argued strongly with DOC that they should maintain the dairy herd and farm ground. However, this Administration has made it difficult for all departments in state government to operate efficiently and Corrections is no different.
Watson is working to enhance and protect the rest of the Vandalia facility, which is fully funded for the coming fiscal year. I am working to ensure its stability for a long time to come, Watson said. After spending a great deal of time with DOC and reviewing their plans, we have a commitment that the Beverage and Meat Processing operations will be beefed up.
The Department has committed that equipment upgrades will continue in the VCC skim milk and juice plant. Also, a second shift will be added to the Meat Processing operations, allowing another product line to be brought in. Those commitments can only strengthen Vandalias position in the entire Correctional Industries operation, Watson said.
In his most recent letter to Sen. Watson, Corrections Director Roger Walker details the Departments plans for Vandalia. Walker wrote: Illinois Correctional Industries (ICI) intends to maintain its Beverage (skim milk/juice) and Meat Processing programs with no loss of jobs to civilian staff ICI recently upgraded the homogenizer, is in the process of replacing the bulk skim milk mixer at a cost of approximately $50,000 and has a future goal of replacing the beverage carton machine. It is also ICIs intent to establish a 2nd shift to the Meat Processing operations allowing for most if not all Lower Farm assigned Offenders the opportunity to continue their programming through ICI. This additional shift will allow ICI to enhance production at Vandalia by transferring a raw product line from Western ICI, thus allowing Western added production time for ICIs fully cooked product line.
Watson said he believes the department is missing a prime opportunity. In this economy, I truly believe the farm could make money for the entire Correctional Industries program. In addition, it provides a prime opportunity to keep these inmates working which is the supposed mission of Correctional Industries. Its the last prison farm and should stay in operation.
The Department of Corrections budget and its plans for every facility in the state face legislative review in the coming months. Well be carefully reviewing all of their plans as the budget process moves forward, Watson said.
The above is a press release issued by Sen. Frank Watson's office late Monday afternoon.