Posts Tagged ‘Menard Correctional Center’

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.


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…”

The scandal involving the IL Workman’s Compensation Commission (ILWCC) has continued to broaden out since early January 2011, when it was discovered by the Belleville News-Democrat that hundreds of prison guards at Menard’s Correctional Center (including the Warden) received substantial injury compensation awards for “carpal tunnel” and other repetitive injuries they claimed during the past several years. The Belleville News-Democrat (BND) has been criticized for presenting a supposedly “one-sided” perspective on just how serious the problems are which plague the ILWCC, but common sense tells anyone who reads the information contained in the BND series below  that the ILWCC’s problems are systemic, and that the agency is out of control. The Central Management Services (CMS) is another state agency which is supposed to keep tabs on the processing of state worker compensation claims, and it apparently also hasn’t kept a close eye on what went on at the ILWCC. CMS seems now to be trying to hinder the release of information to the public about the resolution of specific claims. But, clearly, you have had an agency (the ILWCC) where more than a few, trained, administrative judges (many of them lawyers) appear to have: a) freely dispensed millions in state monies to many claimants (including themselves) with little requirement for the substantiation of the basis for each claim, b) traded favors in order to expedite claims, and c) tried to obscure their actions from public notice by losing the paperwork or conducting actions in secrecy.

The state legislators are debating reform of the whole IL workman’s comp agency and procedures, but so far, haven’t been able to get employers, medical providers, and employees to agree on changes. Now, it has even been proposed (although it is unlikely to pass) that Workman’s Comp should be done away with altogether. Yet, this would pretty much leave employees defenseless and forced to sue their employers for any compensation.

At least two administrative judges whose actions appear to have fallen far short of approved standards have been placed on paid administrative leave pending federal and state investigation (when many feel they should be fired outright), but this is just the start of what needs to happen. The Belleville News-Democrat is to be commended for it’s tenacity and thorough efforts in using the Freedom of Information Act to uncover this scandal and keep the public on top of it. Hopefully, we will soon begin to hear of serious action taken from the investigations, including criminal prosecutions.

30 fired workers’ comp arbitrators still getting paychecks

House might ditch current workers’ comp system

Quinn proposing changes to workers’ comp in Ill.