Madigan makes stop in Southern Illinois

By Gus Bode

Illinois candidate for Attorney General Lisa Madigan says prison safety a top priority

Lisa Madigan, the democratic candidate for Illinois attorney general, pledged her support for state prison workers at a Monday press conference, a promise that was backed up by an endorsement from a labor union.

Citing Madigan’s opposition to privatization of the prison system, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees endorsed the Chicago senator in her campaign against Joe Birkett, the state’s attorney of DuPage County.


“It’s not a question of party,” said Buddy Maupin, the regional director of AFSCME. “It’s a question of principle.”

Madigan said she opposes current state efforts to privatize dietary services at prisons.

“Anyone who knows anything about prisons knows that the food production area is the most dangerous part of a prison, where inmate cooks have access to food, fuel and knives,” she said. “Dietary employees in our prisons not only prepare food, but provide security both for the employees and inmates.”

Greg Wasuleski, a food service supervisor at Vienna Correctional Center with 26 years of experience, agreed.

Food service workers at the Vienna facility cover about 37,000 square feet and serve roughly 1,500 inmates, he said, which makes safety concerns a top priority.

“There’s a lot of security in our jobs,” he said.

Madigan stressed that she wants to protect the prison workers’ jobs and ensure the safest services possible at prison facilities – without privatization.


“It’s the attorney general’s job to protect working families and I plan to do just that,” she said.

Additionally, Madigan said she wants to restore the recent budget cuts that have affected prisons, but added that finding the funding is a challenge.

She also noted that Birkett has received contributions from Aramark, the company seeking the contract for dietary services at Illinois prisons.

Aramark contributed $1,000 to Birkett’s campaign in March, and gave another $300 in June, said Steve Binder, Birkett’s press secretary.

Despite the contributions, Binder said Birkett does not favor privatization of prisons because of security and cost concerns, and added that he received the contribution because of his experience as a prosecutor.

“[Aramark] believes the next attorney general should be the most experienced lawyer,” Binder said.

Binder said Madigan was attempting to draw attention away from her lack of legal experience with an issue that is germane to the attorney general’s duties. Birkett has 21 years of experience as a prosecutor, while Madigan has about four years of experience working for a private firm.

“Lisa Madigan is bringing this up to deflect attention from her lack of experience,” Binder said.

Reporter Ben Botkin can be reached at [email protected]