Residents of Logan County rallied on the courthouse lawn in Lincoln, Illinois last Thursday to protest Gov. Pat Quinn's proposed closure of the Logan Correctional Center, which is predicted to have a devastating impact on the local economy.
Quinn's proposed budget cuts, released early last month, included closing the prison, which is one of the area's largest employers with a staff of 357, the Bloomington Pantagraph reports. Six other state facilities are also on the chopping block.
Lincoln Mayor Keith Snyder was joined by local aldermen in rallying citizens to participate in the demonstration last Thursday, which drew between 400 and 600 people, the Pantagraph estimates.
“The loss of Logan would be a devastating blow to not only the families affected, but to our entire local economy,” Snyder said in the news release, according to the Lincoln Courier. “We need all 14,500 people in Lincoln to stand united behind Logan Correctional Center and speak out in support of keeping these jobs and our economy intact.”
Snyder said the closure, projected to be completed by Dec. 31, would cost an annual loss to the local economy of at least $73.3 million, according to the Courier.
Residents worry the damage will mirror the impact of the 2002 shutdown of the Lincoln Development Center, which closed its doors on 698 employees, causing a trickle-down hit in demand that hurt the local economy across industries, according to the Pantagraph. Maureen Wibben, co-owner of a computer service in Lincoln, said the sudden, massive layoffs hit her business hard.
“When people started living and working out of town, they took their computers with them,” Wibben told the Pantagraph, adding that her business, which had to reduce its workforce from nine employees to three after the Development Center's closure, anticipates another revenue hit if the Correctional Center shuts down.
Opponents of the closure have taken up red "SAVE LOGAN" T-shirts as emblems of the collective cause, and at Thursday's protest they were out in full force.
“Our community is what it is because of every person here and every person around this county wearing red shirts today but couldn’t be here," Chamber board President Donna Boyd, whose husband is among those who will lose his job if the prison closes, told the Pantagraph. "And it is every person who is opposing this closure.”
The Chicago Tribune reports that Logan County's jobless rate is currently at 8.3 percent, according to figures released Thursday. The county's population, presently just over 30,300, has declined by 800 people during the past decade.
Snyder, who spoke at the rally, encouraged residents to attend a public hearing held by the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability at 5 p.m. Oct. 26 at Lincoln Christian University.
Logan County Board member Jan Schumacher told the Pantagraph that this issue extends far beyond the impact it will have on Logan Correctional Center employees.
“They are the fabric of our community and if those folks have to leave, that leaves a hole in our community,” she said. “They are so much of who we are. We can’t sit idly by. We have to continue to fight and continue to be vocal.”