Crest Hill mayor backs plan to demolish, rebuild Stateville

Stateville would be rebuilt, also could become new site for women’s prison

Crest Hill Mayor Ray Soliman awaits his opportunity to testify on the impact of the plan to rebuild Stateville Correctional Center at a state hearing held in Joliet on Tuesday, June 11, 2024.

A new Stateville Correctional Center will bring some stability to the city that hosts the state prison, Crest Hill Mayor Ray Soliman said.

Soliman was among those giving testimony at a state hearing June 11 in Joliet on plans to demolish and rebuild Stateville, which is located in Crest Hill.

Before the hearing, the mayor said Crest Hill has dealt with rumors that Stateville could be shut down going back to the days of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration.

Closing Stateville would have a big influence on city finances in Crest Hill.

The prison is the biggest water and sewer customer for the city.

“It’s about 25% of our sewer and water,” Soliman said. “They are a big user.”

In addition, the prison population at Stateville is counted in the state motor fuel tax funds that Crest Hill gets for road improvements.

Stateville Correctional Center

Now, state officials are talking about not only rebuilding a new Stateville but possibly moving the Logan Correctional Center, a woman’s prison in Lincoln, to the Crest Hill site.

In his testimony, Soliman said he was all for it.

“The proposal to demolish the outdated Stateville Correctional Center and rebuild a modern facility, coupled with the relocation of Logan Correctional Center to Stateville’s grounds, presents a unique opportunity to achieve several key benefits for our city,” Soliman said.

His remarks were delivered to the state Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, which is supposed to make a recommendation on what to do about Stateville and Logan.

Called COGFA for short, the commission was slated to meet Friday to take an advisory vote.

But not enough commission members showed up to make a quorum, which meant COGFA could not take a vote and suggesting members were not ready to make a decision.

Plans for Stateville and Logan are facing plenty of pushback from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the union that represents prison workers, and people in the Lincoln area who also depend on the Logan prison for local jobs and revenue.

AFSCME union members packed the banquet hall at the Clarion Hotel & Convention Center in Joliet, where the state Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability held a hearing on plans to rebuild Stateville Correctional Center on Tuesday, June 11, 2022.

AFSCME is against the plan to shut down Stateville completely, which could happen as early as September, while the old prison is demolished and a new prison is built.

“The most reasonable and practical approach should be to keep Stateville open while building a new facility on the acres nearby,” AFSCME Local 1866 President Eugene Washington said at a news conference before the Tuesday hearing.

AFSCME members packed the banquet hall at the Clarion Hotel & Convention Center on Larkin Avenue, where the COGFA hearing was held.

The union represents 500 employees at Stateville.

AFSCME argued that there is enough land at Stateville to demolish and build at the same time, avoiding the disruption that could lead to two-hour commutes for workers if they are able to find jobs at other state prisons until a new Stateville opens.

State Sen. Rachel Ventura, D-Joliet, sat on the COGFA panel as the local state senator but is not an official member.

Ventura did not speculate Friday on why COGFA did not produce a quorum to take a vote. But she said that there is some hesitancy regarding the pace of the project and what effect there will be on Stateville programs and services.

“I think that’s where a lot of the problem is,” Ventura said. “We feel that there are plenty of things that need to be done before this fall.”

Shutting down Stateville while rebuilding also will have an influence on Crest Hill water and sewer revenue, although it would be far from a total loss.

The Northern Reception and Classification Center, a newer facility built in 2004 outside of Stateville’s walls, has an inmate population of 1,312 compared with 453 inside Stateville. The NRC facility will continue to operate as Stateville is rebuilt.

“From an economic perspective, this project will bring significant benefits to the city of Crest Hill,” Soliman said at the hearing. “The construction phase will generate substantial employment opportunities, benefiting local businesses and boosting the city’s economy.”