DOL proposes closing Golconda Jobs Corps Center citing declining enrollment, behavior problems

A Golconda Job Corps team pauses for a picture during a job in the Shawnee National Forest.

Illinois Correspondent

Golconda, IL – The U.S. Department of Labor has issued a preliminary decision to permanently close the Golconda Jobs Corps Center following behavior problems that included riots, sexual assaults and drunkenness.

The center had been closed temporarily since July 19 by the Department of Labor in cooperation with the Departments of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service.

The preliminary decision to close it permanently came last month after southern Illinois’ representatives in Congress joined to ask the department to re-open the center to provide work opportunities for young people.

Byron Zuidema, assistant secretary for employment and training, said problems at Golconda had increased in recent years.

“Among the incidents were multiple riots in 2015 and two violent assaults in May and June of 2017,” he said in an interview. “More broadly, the number of assaults and sexual assaults increased at the center between program years 2014 and 2016, while the total number of students enrolled at the center during each of those program years decreased.”

In its announcing its preliminary decision to close the center, the DOL cited problems over several years and numerous but failed attempts to correct them.


U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth plus the center’s representative in the House, John Shimkus (R-Collinsville), asked in a letter that the center be re-opened, noting its importance to the region.

“Job Corps programs are responsible for providing disconnected young people with a safe environment to develop vocational skills and further their education,” they wrote.

“Centers should be held accountable when the safety and well-being of staff, students and communities are at risk. At the same time, we should not abandon communities and youth by closing low-performing centers without making a concerted effort to re-open these centers in a way that guarantees safety and a productive learning environment.

“The decision to suspend operations at the Golconda Job Corps Center has serious consequences for the surrounding region and disconnected youth the center serves. We hope that DOL and the Forest Service will do everything possible to make sure this closure is temporary.” 


The senators and Shimkus asked for criteria that could be met to allow the re-opening of the center and for DOL’s transition plans for the people who had been enrolled.

They also highlighted the center’s past success. “It has been an economic engine for the region, providing employment opportunities for hundreds of our constituents and partnering with a local hospital,” they wrote. “As a pillar of the community, the closure of this center will be felt throughout the entire region.”

A former student, Coletta Grant, spoke to KFVS-Channel 12 about the center’s effect on her life.

“It was a stable place to live. It was food every day,” she said. “I got my education there, my GED. I got a trade, my welding degree – the best thing that ever happened to me.

“Job Corps will close, but then there won’t be anybody here to teach these kids who might need help,” she added. “There could be another me out there, lost in the system and not having anyone to rely on.”


Those wishing to comment on the plan to close the center have until Oct. 26 to reply, which they can do by visiting he Federal Register Notice website at and typing Golconda in the search bar.

The search will produce a document page titled “Updated Methodology for Selecting a Job Corps Center for Closure and Center Proposed for Closure,” which includes a link for filing a formal comment.

The department will post its decision on the Federal Register on Feb. 26, followed by a 30-day public comment period.

[box style=”4″]

Part of Johnson’s Great Society initiative 

Job Corps was established in 1964 by the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson to provide no-cost technical career and academic training for people ages 16 to 24, part of Johnson’s War on Poverty and Great Society initiatives.

The Golconda center opened in 1965 at the site of a former Civilian Conservation Corps camp established in 1933 in Pope County along the Ohio River.

It has produced bricklayers, carpenters, construction workers and chefs, among others, out of young people who lacked other options. It is surrounded by the Shawnee National Forest, which provides conservation projects for the students.

The center’s website states: “At Golconda Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center, we support the Job Corps program’s mission to teach eligible young people the skills they need to become employable and independent and place them in meaningful jobs or further education.”

At its peak, the center could accommodate 175 males and 55 females in four-person dorm rooms. When it closed, it was down to 33 trainees. About 60 staff members lost their jobs.



  • The DOL needs to reopen the center.

    There are plenty of veterans with discipline skills who could staff the center and provide a safe place for all corpsmen who want to better themselves.

    The buildings are already in place. You just need the right staff.

    I am 69 years old and I was a corpsmen at Golconda in 1972. The skills I learned there have provide for food on my table many times over. I learned to follow the rules and laws of the land. I have never been arrested and consider myself to be a loyal citizen.

    I owe a debt of gratitude to those who took the time to share their knowledge with me and to USDA Forest Service for operating the Golconda Job Corps Center,

    • Do not expect that to happen anytime soon. Too many people have ruined it. Too many violence, drugs, and fraud was going on and was unreported. Almost nobody did anything about it. It will stay shut down for a time being.

  • I attended here back in 2011 through 2012. It has been slacked. Education teachers didn’t give a care anymore they just sat and watched these children fail themselves. They just showed up to work I guess. It was Dorm vs Dorm like a gang. It was 3 Male Dorms and 1 Female dorms. Women were getting turned out in those dorms and men were getting sexually assulted from the male staff in there dorms. The girls had many cat fights and it’s true, Drugs and liquor and even cigerettes were being sold and slung around like it was the hood. People bought snacks and flipped the price to make profit and sold it for more. Guess who knew about it. The staff. You’re correct. They were paid a little change or something else to hush about it or they let these student run them. They definitely had favorites up there. Medical/wellness put people business in the air somehow. People would break into the trade rooms at night to have sex and walk the long path (trails) to get lost and unseen to have sex outside. Anything sexually got overlooked and swept under the rug. Too many people who wanted to relocate to pretend to be something they weren’t up here was the perfect opportunity for the. They were probably not so “cool” back in their hometown. girls had cliqs and guys had their little circles and ring leaders and brought their home gangs to this center. Sorry this center needs to stay closed down. They need to rebouild or relocate and hire new people to run this. a lot of the very old staff that were there in 2011 were extremly racist (some of them). (This is all alleged)

  • why dont they have the state police run the center? Or at least hire them to be on center? it was a great oppurtunity for me. i was in urban forstry i learned alot from mr brian morris who was in charge of our class! he did an amazing job with teachings always pushing us to be better and neve5r wanting any of us to fail, i guess the sexual stuff happens bt when you mix guys and gals who are young what do you really expect. Th/eir were a few gangbaners or wannabes on site i even helped get a few of the bad apples sent home! i figured if your not here to learn you shouldnt be here! they also took us on alot of trips like we went ryans buffette alot they took us to garden of the gods cave in a rock and even took us to six flags!I really miss that place would have stay/ed for lif. wish they would stay reopened! your taking away from kids who really want to learn! i wih to god you would reopen your doors for oppurtunities for young people i am 41 now and it taught me major life lessons all i can say is thank you golconda Job corpse for making me the man i am today!

  • I attended the last years it was open and it was treated like a jail both by people attending AND staff. Some of the upper management treated a lot of these kids like dogs honestly, which caused a lot of tension. The racism/sexism was pretty bad too


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top