House Approves Bill to Reopen Hardin Co. Work Camp

House lawmakers passed a bill Tuesday that would reopen the Hardin County Work Camp.

The camp closed in January as a cost-cutting move.

It holds 200 inmates, and features a program to teach offenders how to build houses.

The bill's sponsor, Representative Brandon Phelps of Harrisburg, says reopening the camp will cost about one million dollars and save 70 jobs.

"It's an un-fenced correctional facility. They've helped out young men to get back and make a positive deal in their lives. This means everything to this little county. It's their biggest employer."

But, critics, like Representative Ron Sandack of Downers Grove, question why they should be approving any spending given the current budget stalemate.

"We have a bunch of million dollar appropriations that we should and could be making if there were discussions had between the leaders and the governor over a budget and some reforms. Apparently, those discussions are not happening."

Most Republicans voted against the legislation Tuesday.

But GOP Representative Terri Bryant of Murphysboro - who spent years working for the state prison system - voted for it.

"Not only is this facility important to our region, in the fact that it's the number one employer for Hardin County. But it's also important to the Department of Corrections as we work to make our staff and those who are incarcerated safer."

Bryant says inmates at the camp have donated thousands of hours of community service. Much of that has been preparing for flooding - and the clean-up that comes after.