Public hearing scheduled for Pontiac prison

Adriana Colindres

The potential shuttering of Pontiac Correctional Center will be the subject of a public hearing a state panel has scheduled for Aug. 12 in Pontiac.

The tentative location for the 5 p.m. hearing is Pontiac Township High School, Pontiac Mayor Scott McCoy said Friday.

The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability has scheduled the hearing, in accordance with a state law that kicks in whenever prisons or other state-run facilities are being eyed for closure.

At a later date, the bipartisan commission will recommend whether to close the prison. Even though the panel's recommendations are advisory, not binding, they have always been accepted so far, said Dan Long, executive director of the commission.

In May, Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration canceled its plan to close part of the Stateville prison near Joliet and decided to close Pontiac Correctional Center instead. The plan, which the administration says would save money, also calls for expanded use of a new prison in Thomson.

The Pontiac prison employs about 600 people.

McCoy said officials are gathering data about how the prison's closure would affect the economy of Pontiac and the region.

What they've found so far, he said, is it 'would be quite devastating. The more we dig into this, the more scared we become.'

Already, the community is starting to suffer economically, he said. People are afraid to make large financial commitments, such as buying a house or a car, because they might not have secure jobs.

'My job at this point is rallying the troops here at home,' McCoy said, adding that means urging residents to write letters and take other action to show opposition to the prison closure.

Pontiac officials have planned a 'Community Support Photo' for 10:30 a.m. today on the south side of the downtown square. The idea is to gather as many people as possible for the photo. More information is available at

Also under way is a petition drive to oppose the prison's closure.

Adriana Colindres can be reached at (217) 782-6292 or