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Phelps Bill to Reopen Hardin Work Camp Advances in Springfield

Legislation sponsored by state Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, that would reopen the Hardin County Work Camp that was closed by Governor Bruce Rauner, is one step closer to becoming law after advancing through the Appropriations-Public Safety Committee this week in Springfield.

“The governor recently admitted that closing the Hardin County Work Camp was political and had nothing to do with actually saving the state money,” said Phelps. “Today is a victory for Southern Illinois but we still have a long fight ahead.”

The Governor’s office announced over the summer that it would be closing the Hardin County Work Camp, which is a Level 7 work camp facility that holds 200 inmates. The work camp officially closed at the beginning of the New Year. It is a satellite facility of the larger Shawnee Correctional Center.  The work camp is known for its construction occupations class which builds homes and donates them to charities.  The work camp has partnered with such organizations as Habitat for Humanity and Lutheran Social Services.  With the recently flooding along the Mississippi River, inmates from the work camp were dispatched to help with recovery efforts.

The counties of Hardin, Saline and Gallatin are the primary areas the work camp covers. According to the governor’s office, the facility needed to be closed because repairs after a recent fire in the work camp’s kitchen were too expensive.  House Bill 4326 would create a special status for the work camp to ensure that it cannot be closed. Advocates for the bill say that the efforts to close the facility are politically motivated and the workers and their families deserve the protection of the law.

“This governor said he was going to shake things up, but all he’s doing is shaking people out of a job,” said Phelps. “Southern Illinois is sick and tired of being used as pawns in the political games of Chicago politicians like Bruce Rauner and his predecessors and this bill is aiming to put a stop to it.”

Brandon Phelps represents the 118th District in the Illinois General Assembly, which includes all or portions of Alexander, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jackson, Johnson, Massac, Pope, Pulaski, Saline, and Union counties.