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Quinn Rethinks Ban On Reporters At State Prisons

A man holds on to a prison bar inside of a jail cell. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

A man holds on to a prison bar inside of a jail cell. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

roberts250 Bob Roberts
Bob Roberts is a native of Wilmette who has worked in Chicago media...
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(CBS) — Two months after saying the media were not welcome, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and state corrections officials have agreed to schedule media tours of the state’s overcrowded prison system.

Now, Quinn says, it’s up to Corrections Director Salvador Godinez to decide when and how.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts Reports

The governor put his foot down in August, telling WBBM Newsradio and other media that it posed a “security risk” to allow reporters inside the prison system, which was built to hold 33,000 inmates but is currently home to 48,000.

Then, Oct. 19, a criminal justice class from Heartland Community College in downstate Bloomington was given a tour of the Pontiac Correctional Center.

Asked by Newsradio how students pose any less of a threat than the media, Quinn dodged the question.

“We’ll take a look at it,” he said.  “I’m going depend on what the director of corrections systems says.  He’s a long-time expert in this area.  He’s got the responsibility of making sure the prisons are run right.”

An aide to Quinn said several student groups may have been allowed tours.  The department put out a statement Friday evening that indicated that tours would be scheduled because of “increased interest” on the part of the media.

The statement said the department would take into consideration “media interests, the safety and security of staff, inmates and visitors, as well as available department resources and associated costs.”