Coverage of the Illinois Prison System
The panelists talk about attempts by Chicago Public Radio to report on conditions at two minimum security prisons in southern Illinois.
Reporter Robert Wildeboar's requests to be allowed access to the prisons have been denied by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, who cited safety concerns. The Shop Talk panelists point out Quinn once championed open access to government but his stance appears to have changed since he became governor. They also point out Illinois taxpayers spend approximately $1 billion per year on the prison system and deserve to know how their money is being used.
The Illinois News Broadcasters Association has sent a letter to Quinn urging him to allow reporters into the prisons. President Jennifer Fuller writes "...people are left to ask themselves what is being hidden..." when access is denied.
Shop Talk panelist Lisa Kernek said she covered the local minimum security prison as one of her beats when she wrote for the Jacksonville Journal Courier. She said she was never denied access to the prison, though that was a number of years ago.
Kernek also followed the experiences of a prisoner who was assigned to one of the state's boot camps for non-violent offenders in the early 1990s. She was given full access to the camp and also did a a follow up story on the inmate after he was released.