AP Exclusive: Intake Center Focus of Ill. Crowding

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 "bullpens" next to garages at the Illinois prison system's principal intake facility.

The bullpens have held 100 inmates a night for weeks. Corrections Department spokesman Tom Shaer said they were empty Friday, at least temporarily -- showing how quickly conditions can change at the short-term intake center.

Ralph Portwood is president of the employee's union overseeing the reception center. He says the situation poses a security concern because inmates there are being held in groups instead of two per cell.