Judge temporarily halts Vienna prison closing

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Associated Press WriterCARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) -- Johnson County Judge James R. Williamson on Tuesday issued a restraining order temporarily barring the state from closing the Vienna Correctional Center in far southern Illinois.

The order, handed down Tuesday afternoon in Vienna, bars the state from moving inmates from the facility or laying off employees "until further order from the court."

The order came as part of a lawsuit filed by a union of prison employees that claimed Gov. George Ryan lacks the authority to close the prison since the General Assembly funded its operation through the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

A spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees said Tuesday's order will buy the group time to persuade lawmakers to fund the prison beyond that point.

"We're happy today, but we're realistic," said Buddy Maupin, AFSCME's regional director for southern Illinois.

"This doesn't keep Vienna open, but it buys us time to get appropriation from the Legislature to keep it open," he said.

The governor's office did not immediately return a telephone call from The Associated Press Tuesday.

Gov. George Ryan announced in February plans to close the minimum-security prison, located near the Shawnee National Forest in the southern tip of the state, to help solve a state budget crunch.

The closing, which was slated for May 15, would leave some 350 people out of work in one of the poorest parts of the state.

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