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WJBD - Local News - Murray Center Guards Stir Controversy with Murray Parents Association, Local Lawmakers

Murray Center Guards Stir Controversy with Murray Parents Association, Local Lawmakers

By Bruce Kropp, WJBD News

State Representative Charlie Meier and the President of the Murray Center Parents Association believe the addition of security guards and new visiting procedures are just another way the state is trying to harass parents and staff as the state attempts to close the facility.   Meier was extremely angry when learning one of the guards was carrying a concealed weapon.   

"One gentleman was armed. We fought for concealed carry in this state, and the Governor fought us and said one of the places that should never have a gun inside of it is a mental health facility...and then he sends a guy into Murray Center with a gun. I am totally appalled by this." Meier said.

Meier believes it's only because of his protests the decision was made not to arm the security guards.  He notes a weapon in the cottages could cause the developmentally disabled to become terrified, with some large enough to try and take the weapon away.   Meier does have a suggestion on how the state could better use the security personnel.

"I believe these CILAs (Community Integrated Living Arrangements), where residents keep walking away and getting lost-- maybe we should send guards over there to help care for them a little better. I dont remember the last time someone got lost in Murray Center...because it doesn't happen."

The President of the Murray Center Parents Association Rita Winkeler is questioning the motives of the state and fears the guards will not be trained in dealing with the disabled.

"I think it's totally unnecessary. We already have security guards at Murray Center, and there have been no violence issues. Nobody has been threatened. Everyone is safe. Its a total waste of taxpayer money." Winkeler said.

State Representative Meier also finds it interesting a politically well connected Chicago based security firm has been hired to provide the guards.   He feels they would be better assigned at the CILA's where residents are escaping and running away.

An official of the Illinois Department of Human Services says the new visitor policy is being implemented at all seven state operated developmental centers.  Spokesman Januari Smith says most visitors won't even notice much of a difference or restrictions.  She reports the most significant change is visitors will be required to sign in so staff knows who is on the campus at any given time.  Smith stresses that the guards are unarmed and part of the visitor process in order to accommodate the high volume of visitor traffic into and out of the campus.

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