State police question prison workers about leaks

Aug 8, 2012, 1:21 AM

AP Political Writer

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) – Illinois State Police investigators attempted to question at least six workers at Tamms Correctional Center on Tuesday in a criminal investigation of leaks of secret information.

One of those interviewed told The Associated Press the encounter lasted a few minutes and said “they were trying to intimidate me.” Gov. Pat Quinn, who wants to close the high-security Tamms lockups, said through a spokeswoman he did not order the investigation. The union representing prison employees called on the Democrat to “renounce these heavy-handed tactics.”

State police spokeswoman Monique Bond confirmed Tuesday that “there is an ongoing investigation into criminal activity.” She would not say more.

Two Tamms employees, speaking only on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, described the scene. One said most of those called in _ correctional counselors, mental health professionals and the prison’s health care administrator _ refused to be questioned without a lawyer.

The employees said three investigators were from the state police and one from the Corrections Department.

The prison agency has been concerned about confidential information leaking to the news media about the supermax Tamms. It’s a high-security lockup for inmates who were violent in general prisons and a place to isolate gang leaders and cut off communication with subordinates. It’s closing because Quinn believes it’s underused and too expensive.

A Corrections spokeswoman would not comment on the police visit to Tamms, on the southern tip of Illinois.

A correctional counselor called before the investigators said a police special agent displayed her badge and explained it was a criminal investigation involving a leak of private health information. The employee, who described the scene as “very dramatic,” said the special agent briefly turned over a stack of papers but what it contained wasn’t visible.

The counselor, who was also questioned several weeks ago by the Corrections investigator after a news report based on internal data, submitted a written complaint Tuesday.

“I felt like I was being harassed, that they were trying to intimidate me,” said the counselor, whose job includes preparing Tamms inmates for transfer. “It creates a hostile work environment and a distraction, and I don’t feel like I can do my job.”

Anders Lindall of the employees’ union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said it was disturbing that Quinn would call in his state police “to prevent rank-and-file employees from exercising their legal rights and stifle criticism of his dangerous rush to close state prisons.”

“Unlike Pat Quinn, we believe citizens should know what their government is doing behind the prison walls,” Lindall said. “He should renounce these heavy-handed tactics and put a stop to them at once.”

The AP reported last month that Corrections ordered a “mass shakedown” for contraband on prison employees as they left work, a nearly unprecedented step. That followed closely on the heels of a forum in which prison employees publicly voiced their worries about Quinn’s prison-closure plan, which also includes the Dwight women’s facility.

It also came shortly after Lee Enterprises Newspapers in Illinois reported, based on a confidential memo, that nine displaced Tamms inmates would be put in prisons out of state. Corrections Chief Executive Jerry Buscher responded with a letter to Lee warning that publishing the information would be viewed “as attempting to promote disorder within the prison system.”

The counselor called in by investigators Tuesday said records about out-of-state placements wouldn’t have had health information.

Buscher signed a similar letter to the AP when a reporter for the news agency asked Corrections about emails showing prospective placement of other Tamms inmates _ some of whom were identified as having mental health problems.

___

Contact John O’Connor at
https://twitter.com/apoconnor

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

FILE - Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, managed by CoreCivic, is pictured on May 24, 2016, in ...
Associated Press

Private prison firm to settle lawsuit over inmate death

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A private prison company has agreed to settle a federal lawsuit over a Tennessee inmate’s killing that got national attention after a judge ordered the plaintiff’s attorney to stop tweeting about it. Tennessee-based CoreCivic and attorney Daniel Horwitz, who represents the family of the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center inmate who died, […]
9 hours ago
FILE - The sun shines on the dome of Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Aug. 12, 2022. A man drove...
Associated Press

Police: Man killed himself after ramming US Capitol barrier

A man drove his car into a barricade near the U.S. Capitol early Sunday and then began firing gunshots in the air before fatally shooting himself, police said.
9 hours ago
FILE - Rishi Sunak during a hustings event in Darlington, England, Aug. 9, 2022, as part of the cam...
Associated Press

‘China threat’ emerges in elections from UK to Australia

LONDON (AP) — It’s not just the economy. While inflation and recession fears weigh heavily on the minds of voters, another issue is popping up in political campaigns from the U.K. and Australia to the U.S. and beyond: the “China threat.” The two finalists vying to become Britain’s next prime minister, Liz Truss and Rishi […]
9 hours ago
Hadi Matar, 24, second from right, listens as his public defense attorney Nathaniel Barone, center,...
Associated Press

Salman Rushdie ‘on the road to recovery,’ agent says

MAYVILLE, N.Y. (AP) — Salman Rushdie is “on the road to recovery,” his agent confirmed Sunday, two days after the author of “The Satanic Verses” suffered serious injuries in a stabbing at a lecture in upstate New York. The announcement followed news that the lauded writer was r emoved from a ventilator Saturday and able […]
9 hours ago
FILE - Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz listens to testimony while seated ...
Associated Press

School shooter’s brain exams to be subject of court hearing

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A defense mental health expert in the penalty trial of Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz can pinpoint when he realized the 23-year-old mass murderer still has “irrational thoughts” — the two were making small talk when Cruz began describing plans for an eventual life outside prison. Wesley Center, a Texas […]
9 hours ago
Caroline Hansen uses Emma's Premium Services, a higher-priced service according to Hansen, to shop ...
Associated Press

New York restricts families from sending packages to inmates

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — As part of an effort to keep illegal drugs and other contraband out of state prisons, New York is taking away one of the few pleasures of life behind bars: It will no longer let people send inmates care packages from home. Under the new policy, which the state began phasing […]
9 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
...
Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
State police question prison workers about leaks