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Prison overcrowding a pressing issue in Illinois

Friday, 27 December 2013 14:27 Published in Local News
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The crowded situation in the inmate intake center near Joliet has become the latest focus in the ongoing dispute over whether Illinois' prisons are too crowded.
The Associated Press has learned hundreds of inmates are sleeping in a gym, a health care unit and "staging areas" next to garages at the Illinois prison system's principal intake facility.
 
Ralph Portwood is president of the employees' union at Stateville prison, which oversees the reception center. He says the situation poses a security concern because inmates there are being held in groups instead of two per cell.
 
Illinois Department of Corrections officials say the setup isn't the most desirable but that the facility is secure, with extra guards available.  Corrections Director S.A. "Tony" Godinez says the prisons are run safely and humanely.
 

Documentary sheds spotlight on Branson

Friday, 27 December 2013 14:17 Published in Local News
 ST. LOUIS (AP) - Documentary filmmakers A.J. Schnack and David Wilson knew it would be easy to make fun of Branson, middle America's flag-waving, family-friendly celebration of musical variety shows and early-bird dinner specials.
The Midwest natives felt a stronger obligation to dig beneath the surface and portray local performers and town leaders as more than aw-shucks Ozark hillbillies.
 
The result is "We Always Lie to Strangers," a new film that tells a more nuanced story of how the southwest Missouri resort is dealing with the aftermath of an economic recession, an aging audience and performance troupes whose gay cast members live a version of "don't ask, don't tell" among their conservative Christian neighbors.
 
The documentary will be distributed nationally in 2014. It kicked off the annual St. Louis International Film Festival in November.
   
 

Senator McCaskill in line for some high flying

Friday, 27 December 2013 14:14 Published in Local News
   JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The company owned by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill's husband has bought an airplane the Missouri senator could occasionally use.  McCaskill's office disclosed the purchase Friday by Joseph Shepard's company, which took possession of the plane a week ago. The plane will be used primarily for Shepard's business.
 
 
In 2011, McCaskill, a Democrat, sold a plane for which she and Shepard had an ownership stake. Before that, McCaskill reimbursed the federal treasury $88,000 for taxpayer funded travel and paid St. Louis County about $320,000 in back property taxes, interest and penalties related to that plane.
 
   McCaskill's office said Friday no taxpayer dollars will be used when she flies on this airplane. An independent company is managing compliance with tax and financial reporting. A property declaration is to be filed Jan. 2.

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