Phelps hopes “long shot” bill can save work camp

Illinois State Representative Brandon Phelps says he plans to announce a bill that could save the Hardin County Work Camp from closing its doors.

Whether it’s mowing, painting, or sandbagging that needs to be done Cave In Rock, Mayor Marty Kaylor says he knows he can call the Hardin County Work Camp for help.

"One eight-man crew will come down and work one day, and do as much work as one man will do in a week," said Kaylor.

After 17 years on the job, corrections officer Colby Potts says that work means as much to the inmates as the local communities.

"We’re teaching these guys responsibilities,” said Potts. “We’re teaching them how to be a responsible man, how an inmate can be a man instead of somebody that is just living off society."

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has said in the past that closing the work camp could save the state $2 million in tough financial times. 

However, State Rep. Brandon Phelps says the governor is simply playing politics, which is why he introduced House Bill 4326 to allocate state funding and save the camp.

"What we believe is that he’s trying to treat state government like his business: tear it down and build it back up,” said Phelps.  “Governor Thompson and Governor Edgar, people of his own party, said that’s wrong."

Phelps admits the bill is a long shot but, with support in the general assembly, he says it’s a shot worth taking.

We reached out to Rauner for comment on this story.

We received this response from communications director Lance Trover:

“Representative Phelps should spend less time misleading the people of Southern Illinois about Hardin County – those employees are not losing their jobs – and more time explaining why he continues to march in lockstep with Speaker Madigan in pushing a massive tax hike on hardworking families."

An Illinois Department of Corrections spokeswoman tells us closing the facility by the end of 2015 would save $2 million.

All 60 employees at the Hardin County Work Camp would be given the opportunity to transfer to Shawnee Correctional Center in Vienna, Illinois, or Big Muddy in Ina, Illinois.

Related Articles