July 14, 2022
Good news for Vandalia CC employees
In response to forceful protests from AFSCME, state and local elected officials and the wider community, the Illinois Department of Corrections has halted a plan to sharply reduce capacity at Vandalia Correctional Center—a plan that many feared was a precursor to closing the prison entirely.
The good news came in a memo from IDOC Director Rob Jeffreys that was distributed to employees at the facility. “At this time, we have decided to hold off on the consolidation/conversion at Vandalia,” Jeffreys wrote.
The partial closure threat had drawn strong opposition. AFSCME members on the ground mobilized the local community—gathering hundreds of petition signatures—and enlisted the support of area elected officials. Meanwhile Council 31 had pressed the department and governor’s office to reconsider, while invoking the union’s right to bargain over the impact of the changes that would have moved inmates and potentially staff to other facilities.
“This is the culmination of months of work,” said Eddie Caumiant, AFSCME Council 31 regional director and the union’s liaison to the Department of Corrections.
“It’s an excellent feeling today,” AFSCME Local 993 President Ryan Tompkins said. “Between the community here, the mayor, Council 31 and the entire local, everybody stepped up and came together as one to get this done. Everyone agreed we cannot let this place close, but it takes the whole entire group to make any of this work. It takes a lot of leg work, but you can’t sit back and count on someone else to do it. That’s what solidarity is, and solidarity works.”
While IDOC changing course is welcome news, it’s not the final word—particularly in Vandalia, where correctional employees and local residents alike have become accustomed to repeated threats to close the facility dating back 20 years.
But the Jeffreys memo makes clear that IDOC now understands it cannot make any unilateral changes. “If it is decided in the future to revisit this plan,” the director’s memo says, “we will notify AFSCME Council 31 and continue discussions.”
“We have to remain vigilant and always ready to spring back into action,” Caumiant said.
Tompkins agreed. “We’ve really pushed hard these last couple months,” he said, “and we’re going to keep up the good fight.”