Archive for the ‘IL prison safety’ Category


The Coronavirus will potentially devastate IL prisons; its inmates and those in county jail throughout the state. We are compiling information about the Illinois Department of Correction’s response to the virus and county jails compared to the prisons and jails in other US states as well as the Bureau of Federal Prisons. We are also compiling information offered by prison experts and advocates on behalf of inmates.

You can find this information on our IDOC Agency IDOC Inmate Early Release Page. (<<< click on the red there)

Each day it is becoming more apparent just how inadequate the US response is to the coronavirus epidemic on both the national and local level regarding the safety of the general public. It’s further alarming and outrageous to read the news accounts and reports we’re compiling which show that Illinois’s efforts not only lag significantly behind those of most states but particularly so regarding the health and welfare of Illinois state and county inmates. Illinois county and state facilities have made little preparation for this epidemic compared to other states.

As of this date, at least 4 IDOC facilities have been locked down on medical quarantine for almost a week due to unknown illness. That includes at least 50 inmates at the Menard Correctional Center who suffer from “flu-like” symptoms, 60 inmates at Southwestern IL Correctional, and an unknown number at Robinson Correctional. Cook County Jail is also the first Illinois jail to report that Coronavirus testing is available for its inmates.

Despite the illness and numbers, the Illinois Department of Corrections publicly admits that it is not testing any inmates for Coronavirus. Nor has it said whether it intends to ever do so.


Anybody who looks at the performance of private prisons can see that they end up costing us more, harm more people, fail to rehabilitate, and should not be used.

“…Sally Yates, then the deputy attorney general, said in a memo that research had found private prisons “simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources” and “do not save substantially on costs” either. Essential government education and training programs for prisoners “have proved difficult to replicate and outsource” in the private sector, she said…”

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/23/trump-revives-private-prison-program-doj-obama-administration-end


 

No one should have to die just because one is sent away to prison.  Yet, the story below is not new. Not everyone can withstand the mental and physical pressures of imprisonment especially when they are treated little better than warehoused cattle. We routinely see PETA and other animal rights group advertisements in print and on media about the abuse of animals in puppy mills, etc., and we cringe. But we ignore the terrible physical conditions, sensory deprivation and human misery prisoners suffer under in our state and federal prisons and even many of our county jails.

As in this story, the institutional response is most often complete indifference and non-acknowledgement of responsibility. Prisons and jails are run for cost and often operated at the lowest common-demoninator cost. Staffing is often minimal and operations are cheap. Human welfare and concern are not even on the menu.

Read Article: Losing a son in NY prisons

From article:

“…Lonnie Hamilton III entered the state prison system on January 2, 2015, after spending nineteen months in a city jail. He was assigned to a prison in central New York, two hundred and fifty miles from the Bronx, known as Marcy Correctional Facility. By then he was twenty-one. At the beginning of his imprisonment, he called his father often, but as the months passed he became more secluded. By the spring of 2016, Ham had not heard from him in several months. In early May, he began putting together a care package to mail to Lonnie: clothes for the upcoming warm weather, underwear, sneakers, some of his favorite junk food, like Oreos.

Ham went to the prison system’s Web site to find his son’s inmate number. He typed his son’s name into the inmate-lookup section; next to “Latest Release Date,” he saw “03/18/16 deceased.” “I’m, like, that must be wrong,” he recalled. “So I go and start the whole process all over, and it’s coming up ‘deceased.’ My head is swivelling a thousand miles an hour. What the hell is going on? So I call up there, and I’m trying to get answers.” That’s how he found out that “deceased” was not a mistake: Lonnie was dead.

Getting more information proved nearly impossible. “As I’m talking, these people are hot-potatoing the phone to the next person, to the next person,” he told me. He reached a male officer: “He F.U.-ed me, told me to have a nice day, and hung the phone up on me.” At that moment, Ham was riding in his brother’s car. “This threw me into such a rage, I damn near jumped out the car,” he said. His brother told him about an app that records telephone calls, and he started using it as he called around the prison.

Eventually, he reached Deputy Superintendent Mark Kinderman. “We did everything we could to try to get some kind of response, to try to track someone down,” Kinderman told him. “We tried a lot of different family members. . . . Every number we had was called, was called multiple times.” The father acknowledged the difficulty of tracking people down by cell phone—“a lot of people’s numbers tend to change”—but he asked why, if nobody could reach him on the phone, he had not received a letter notifying him of his son’s death…”


ROCKFORD — “It’s breathtaking. Oh my goodness,” a Rockford man said after emerging from the Winnebago County Jail into the sunshine this afternoon after more than 23 years behind bars for a murder he and his supporters maintain he didn’t commit.John Horton Jr., 40, was convicted of the 1993 murder of Arthur Castaneda in Rockford. Horton was 17 years old when Castaneda was fatally shot during a robbery at a McDonald’s restaurant, located at that time at 2715 Charles St. He was sentenced

Source: John Horton of Rockford free after more than 2 decades in prison


https://www.aclu.org/issues/mass-incarceration/privatization-criminal-justice/private-prisons


Source: Prison treats inmates too harshly – Rockford Register Star


Governor Pat Quinn is beginning to face serious criticism for inaction regarding prison overcrowding and prison violence is escalating. So, Quinn is now claiming IDOC is implementing the new sentence credits as a way to reduce overcrowding. Yet, when Quinn first said this yesterday, an IDOC spokesperson indicated it had no firm timeline for implementation of the early release. Today, this is corrected below with Quinn and IDOC stating the first 12 inmates have been selected and will be released next month. It is too bad that it seems to require a surge in prison violence and public criticism rather than humanitarian motivation to get the Governor to move on  this important issue:

Prison officials ready to launch early inmate release program

4 hours ago  •  Kurt Erickson

SPRINGFIELD — State officials said Friday they are finally launching an early prisoner release program that could reduce some of the overcrowding within the prison system and, possibly, reduce some of the violence going on behind bars.

The first of 12 inmates who have been deemed eligible for the program could hit the streets in the coming month as the Illinois Department of Corrections reviews prisoner files to determine who might qualify.

“The new program will allow the department to, after comprehensive review, award up to 180 days of sentence credit to statutorily eligible offenders who demonstrate positive behavior in custody and show a potential for rehabilitation,” a Corrections release stated.

The program comes more than three years after Gov. Pat Quinn suspended an early release program after The Associated Press reported that an estimated 2,000 inmates had spent only days or weeks of their sentences in prison.

Since then, the state’s prison system has mushroomed by more than 3,000 inmates. At the same time, Quinn has moved to close prisons, saying the state cannot afford to keep all of the facilities open.

The combination of more inmates in fewer cells has led to inmates sleeping in gymnasiums and what critics say is a dangerous rise in violence. On Friday, Lawrence Correctional Center and Menard Correctional Center were on lockdown status, while Stateville Correctional Center was on partial lockdown.

John Maki, executive director of the John Howard Association, said the program could help alleviate some of the pressure on the prison system by reducing the inmate population and giving prisoners an incentive to behave.

But, Maki said, the governor should abandon his plan to close Dwight Correctional Center because overcrowding remains a serious problem.

“Illinois is still going to have a very overcrowded prison system,” Maki said.

The system held 45,000 inmates in prisons designed for 33,000 inmates when the last early release program was terminated in 2009. Projections show the number of inmates is heading toward 50,000 in a system built for 32,000 if the governor moves forward with the closure of the all-female prison in Dwight.

Quinn already has shuttered the super-maximum-security prison in Tamms.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, which represents prison guards and other state workers, said the program could be a positive step.

“But by the department’s own admission in its latest inmate population projection for 2013, this is not an answer to the state’s huge overcrowding problem,” AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall said. “The overcrowding crisis and accompanying dangers will only get worse unless Gov. Quinn keeps Dwight open and reverses the closure of the four IDOC facilities he recently shuttered.”

Under the new program, offenders must have served at least 60 days within the state prison system to be eligible for credit. Inmate files will go through multiple levels of review before an award is determined, Corrections spokeswoman Stacey Solano said.

The program is aimed at nonviolent offenders. Credits cannot be awarded to inmates serving time for murder, rape, kidnapping and other serious crimes.

Officials also will have the right to revoke credit if an inmate demonstrates negative or violent behavior, which was not permitted under previous programs.

The department must notify local authorities at least two weeks prior to an inmate’s parole if the offender received supplemental sentence credit at any point during incarceration.

The agency said it will not inform those who call the agency whether an inmate will be eligible for credit.

But in an attempt to bring transparency to the process, the new law will require the department to provide annual reports outlining how many inmates received credits.

http://qctimes.com/news/state-and-regional/illinois/prison-officials-ready-to-launch-early-inmate-release-program/article_1ca143b8-7d3a-11e2-b5f9-0019bb2963f4.html

 

 


 

Safety and conditions at IL prisons and overcrowding have been a very low priority to Governor Quinn, for the past several years now and things are coming to a head a lot faster than Quinn is moving to solve any of these problems.  Quinn has shown himself to be adept at squeezing agency budgets, but somehow his efforts seem to repeatedly fail with unforeseen consequences like what is happening with prison violence. AFSCME has been protesting facility closures and staff limitations for some time now, and it looks like the media may start to hold Quinn accountable for the fact that no one should be threatened with injury or death inside IL prisons: neither inmates, nor prison staff.

Inmates attack 3 Illinois prison staffers at Menard prison

“Two guards and a chaplain were injured Tuesday in an Illinois prison attack that union officials said involved up to 15 inmates, the latest in a series of violent incidents at the lockup and others in the state.

The violence over the past month led to one death last week at Menard Correctional Center, where the most recent assaults also happened. Union officials say the disturbances stem from Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s decision to close several prisons around the state to save money, a move they claim has put staffers at overcrowded prisons at greater risk…”

Unionized prison employees picket at Menard

“…Eddie Caumian, AFSCME 31 regional director, said rather than agree to a fair contract, the governor has instead chosen to close facilities leading to overcrowding and a lack of staff.

At the same time, the governor is seeking drastic cuts in pensions, wages and increases in employee contributions to health care coverage, Caumian said.

Menard, he said, is designed for 2,000 inmates but is housing around 3,700 and has fewer than 200 employees per shift. The latter number includes guards, clerical staff and other personnel. Caumian said recent violence is connected to the Tamms closing.

“Any time you cram this many people into a confined space and try to do it with as few staff as possible to help control that situation you are asking for trouble, so certainly no, I don’t think it is coincidental that we are seeing incidences of violence that are spiraling out of control as we continue to put more and more people into prisons that can’t hold them,” Caumian said…”