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When Sheila Fane got the call that her 26-year-old nephew, who she’d raised as a son, had died while incarcerated at an Illinois prison, she said, “You have to be f-ing kidding me.” It was the second time she’d gotten a call like this.

"A new report by a court-appointed psychiatrist says that the Illinois Department of Corrections continues to flounder with prisoner mental health. Dr. Pablo Stewart was appointed after a lawsuit settlement in 2016 regarding the lack of adequate mental health care in state prisons. And he says he’s convinced the staff are abusing mentally ill inmates at one correctional center, Pontiac."

In September 2018, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections announced it would put a halt to book donation programs, mail-order books, and publications for incarcerated people housed in state prisons. Although the restrictive policy has since been reversed, there are still concerns among those who run the programs and people behind bars.

The homeless residents of the Wilson and Lawrence viaducts are vowing not to quit after a Cook County judge delayed ruling on whether to dismiss their discrimination lawsuit against the city of Chicago.

Lawsuits that challenge mental healthcare and medical care for incarcerated people advance in Illinois.

The Illinois Department of Corrections continues to flounder in its efforts to care for inmates with mental illness, according to a new report authored by Dr. Pablo Stewart, a psychiatrist and court-appointed monitor on a 2016 settlement agreement on a class-action lawsuit.

Medical care in Illinois prisons remains “extremely poor” and conditions leading to preventable deaths have worsened since a court-appointed team of experts first assessed the state’s prison health program.

Few days pass without letters being delivered to U.S. District Court Judge Michael Mihm in Peoria from one or more of the 1,105 inmates held in segregation. Most of the mail deals with Mihm’s 2016 order directing the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) to complete a major overhaul of mental health care for more than 12,000 inmates on the agency’s mental health caseload.

One third of the prisoner deaths in Illinois reviewed by an independent expert were preventable. That’s according to a new report that rips health care in Illinois prisons as extremely poor, with medical professionals committing egregious errors and little accountability or oversight. The findings by the independent expert echo the horror stories inmates have been telling for years.

In a ruling that lawyers called "historic," a federal judge ordered that Illinois Department of Corrections ( IDOC ) review the case of Strawberry Hampton, a 27-year-old transgender woman who is being-held in a male-only detention facility downstate.

Illinois has just two weeks to present a plan to train its prison staff on transgender issues and rethink the placement of a trans inmate at the center of a highly-publicized abuse allegation.

Most allegations are never proven, but accusations of sex between inmates and staff keep coming at Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln, the state’s largest women’s prison.

Censorship Isolates LGBTQ Prisoners, Lawsuit Says
Censorship Isolates LGBTQ Prisoners, Lawsuit Says

On Oct. 18, Uptown People’s Law Center and the MacArthur Justice Center sued the Illinois Department of Corrections director on behalf of Chicago’s Black and Pink chapter for censoring the organization’s mail sent inside state prisons. According to the lawsuit, 11 prisons censored and refused mail from Black and Pink Chicago on over 200 occasions since 2016. The DOC’s censorship of Black and Pink material is part of a wider pattern of discrimination against LGBTQ people, the attorneys said.

In an order entered Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Rosenstengel said the Illinois Department of Corrections’ Transgender Care Review Committee must consider all evidence for and against transferring 27-year-old Strawberry Hampton to a women’s facility. The department has previously rejected her request to move.

Knowing there were other transgender inmates in prisons in Illinois and across the country made Leila Lee feel as though she wasn’t alone. She said it also made her want to help people like herself when she was released from prison.

In a permanent injunction issued Tuesday, a federal judge found that Illinois prison inmates face an ongoing, serious risk of harm because of inadequate mental health care.

In 2016, the Illinois Department of Corrections reached a settlement agreeing to properly care for the needs of mentally ill inmates. The lawsuit was filed a decade ago on behalf of inmates claiming the lack of care in prisons qualified as cruel and unusual punishment. On Wednesday, a federal judge found the corrections department is still failing to meet those needs.

Several Illinois prisons banned or censored publications, greeting cards and other written materials published by a group advocating for LGBTQ prisoners, it said in a free speech lawsuit filed in federal court in Chicago Thursday.

Attorneys with the Uptown People’s Law Center filed the suit on behalf of the Chicago chapter of Black & Pink – a nonprofit that offers prisoners news updates on LGBTQ issues through a monthly newsletter and other publications.

Today, attorneys filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Chicago chapter of Black & Pink, a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide LGBTQ people in prison with allies on the outside. For over two years, Illinois Department of Corrections ( IDOC ) has censored communication between this organization and LGBTQ prisoners in Illinois.

The Uptown People’s Law Center and the MacArthur Justice Center is filing a lawsuit today that alleges Illinois prisons are censoring correspondence and publications that have been mailed to prisoners by Black and Pink, a prisoners’ rights organization focused on supporting incarcerated LGBTQ and HIV-positive people.

Officials at Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln have ignored sexual misconduct involving guards and other employees, according to three lawsuits filed since last November.

The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) was sued by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author for allegedly censoring her nonfiction book, “Blood In The Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy.” Heather Thompson ordered her book from Amazon and had it sent to three inmates. One inmate received the book while the other two inmates received censorship notices without any explanation.

Two Illinois prisons have censored Blood in the Water, the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by historian Heather Ann Thompson about the 1971 Attica prison uprising. Today, the Chicago-based Uptown People’s Law Center where I work is filing a lawsuit to challenge this unconstitutional and unethical censorship.

Thirteen prisoners were sitting in a stuffy classroom at Illinois’ Stateville Correctional Center one morning last April when a group of prison administrators invited themselves in─and closed the doors behind them.

Uptown People's Law Center filed a federal lawsuit against the Illinois Department of Corrections for shutting down a prison debate team. This spring, WGN Investigates profiled inmates who participated a prison debate team at the Stateville Correctional Center near Joliet.

The Illinois Department of Corrections was sued on Tuesday over its controversial decision to abruptly halt a debate program at Stateville Correctional Center, weeks after the class debated the state parole laws before an audience that included 18 legislators and other state officials.

More than a dozen inmates inside one of Illinois’ most notorious prisons began meeting on a weekly basis last fall to discuss an unconventional topic: debate. Fourteen prisoners housed at Stateville Correctional Center were chosen last year to begin a new debate team at the maximum-security facility. But after they started researching topics like parole and offered draft legislation to state legislators, they say corrections directors shut their program down.

The Uptown People’s Law Center is suing IDOC on behalf of debate coach Katrina Burlet, who says she was allowed to create debate teams within the prison to help inmates develop communications skills and more.

On August 21, incarcerated people in at least 17 different states launched a 19-day "strike" in response to an April riot at South Carolina's Lee Correctional Institution that left seven inmates dead. Organized by a South Carolina-based group of incarcerated individuals calling themselves Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, the strike was rolled out with a list of ten demands challenging conditions of "modern day slavery" at state and federal jails and prisons and immigration detention centers.

"A 29-year-old former inmate at the Logan Correctional Center alleges she was sexually assaulted repeatedly by a counselor at the prison in a federal lawsuit filed Friday by the Uptown People’s Law Center."

Strawberry Hampton, a transgender woman currently serving a ten-year sentence for residential burglary at Dixon Correctional Center, the fourth male prison she's been transferred to within the year, filed new claims against the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) on July 17 stating that she's been sexually and physically assaulted by inmates and prison guards, and requesting she be transferred to Logan Correctional Center, a women's prison.

Under the settlement, the Illinois Department of Corrections will have to provide sign language interpreters for what are called “high stakes interactions” — like disciplinary hearings, medical visits, and counseling sessions.

"She has been repeatedly physically and verbally harassed — physically attacked — by men, both staff and prisoners, at every men’s prison she’s been housed at,” says her lawyer Alan Mills, with the Uptown People's Law Center.

A transgender woman currently incarcerated at the Dixon Correctional Center is renewing her push for a transfer to an all-female prison, alleging that she suffered physical and sexual abuse from guards and male detainees.

"A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against the city of Chicago’s evictions of homeless people, even as officials continue to remove homeless people and fail to provide affordable housing."

"Reports of physical abuse of mentally ill inmates at Pontiac Correctional Center should be investigated by the state, according to a doctor's report on the state's compliance with a federal court settlement on prison mental health care."

"A resource that civil rights attorneys say is critical for prisoners across the country who are fighting abuse and neglect behind bars has just become off-limits to Florida inmates."

"There is credible evidence of guards physically abusing mentally ill inmates at Pontiac Correctional Center, according to a psychiatrist appointed by a federal court to monitor treatment of mentally ill prisoners by the Illinois Department of Corrections."

"A day after a federal judge dismissed Uptown Tent City Organizers' lawsuit against the City of Chicago, the homeless organization's attorneys are vowing to continue a court battle for the right of those who have been displaced by authorities to camp out in the streets."

"Following a federal district court judge’s dismissal Tuesday of a lawsuit against the city of Chicago for denying permits for an Uptown “tent city,” advocates for the homeless said they would continue their fight to allow homeless people to “protect themselves against the city’s notoriously harsh climate.”

"Frustrated lawmakers are quizzing state prison officials and advocates for mentally ill inmates on the potential costs of court-ordered improvements to behavioral health care in the Illinois Department of Corrections."

"The Illinois Department of Corrections is making progress in its effort to create a mental health treatment system that meets constitutional mandates, prison officials told lawmakers Wednesday."

"Civil liberties groups are pushing back against proposed legislation in Illinois that would allow police to dramatically expand the use of drones to monitor large gatherings of people and equip those drones with cameras with controversial facial recognition technology." - Chicago Reader

"A federal judge on Tuesday soundly rejected a proposal from the Illinois Department of Corrections to address serious flaws in mental health care for 12,000 state inmates."

"While the movement to end money bail has gained steam across the nation, the burgeoning fight against the exorbitant "pay-to-stay" fees charged by prisons and jails has yet to enter the public eye in the same way. - TruthOut

"Imprisoned on charges related to sex work, Tiffany Rusher was eventually placed in solitary confinement for getting into a physical struggle with one of her cellmates. During her time in solitary confinement, Rusher's mental health began to deteriorate, initiating a cycle of self-harm." - TruthOut

"A federal judge has ruled the Illinois prison system is still providing inadequate mental healthcare to inmates and that the treatment qualifies as cruel and unusual punishment." - NPR WVIK

"The constitutional rights of mentally ill inmates have been violated by the Department of Corrections, a federal judge told attorneys Wednesday, citing the state's failure to comply with an agreement to improve conditions for thousands of prisoners." - Pantagraph

"About 7:45 am on Tuesday, January 17, 2017, I muster the energy to get out of bed and walk the step to the sink from the bottom bunk and I hear it. Clunk, clunk, clunk, clunk, clunk. "Shit!" I say to myself as my cellmate and I look at each other wide-eyed. We know that sound anywhere. That's three-foot-long, two-inch diameter solid wood batons hitting the steel bars as "Orange Crush" runs down the gallery clunking every bar along the way as they yell." - TruthOut

"Across the country, thousands of incarcerated people face sexual harassment, abuse and assault, frequently at the hands of staff. In the face of these attacks -- and the reality of retaliation -- incarcerated people have come forward to file complaints and lawsuits, fighting back against system-wide abuse."

The Cook County Board will soon hear a proposed resolution to investigate the impact of bail reform in the county. The proposal is in response to Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart’s recent misguided letter to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, advising her that he would not comply with court orders freeing people in jail on bond.

A mother is suing Illinois and Sangamon County officials for failing to prevent her daughter's suicide.

"A transgender woman has filed an emergency order in federal court to stop alleged abuse and harassment by Illinois Department Of Corrections guards."

"The publisher of a newsletter about the criminal justice system filed a lawsuit this week against the Illinois Department of Corrections alleging that multiple state prisons barred inmates from receiving all or part of several publications."

Chicago Tiny House Inc., the newest of a half-dozen organizations trying to bring the little homes here, held a fund-raiser on January 26 in Uptown.

A transgender woman who is currently serving a 10-year sentence in Illinois for burglary is now seeking a rarely granted transfer to a female prison after enduring sexual assault, taunting, and beatings in male prisons.

"A 26-year-old transgender woman serving a 10-year sentence in Illinois for burglary is seeking a rarely granted transfer to a female prison where she says she'll be less vulnerable to the kinds of sexual assault, taunting and beatings she's been subjected to in male prisons." - ABC News

"A 26-year-old transgender woman serving a 10-year sentence in Illinois for burglary is seeking a rarely granted transfer to a female prison where she says she'll be less vulnerable to the kinds of sexual assault, taunting and beatings she's been subjected to in male prisons." - Chicago Tribune

"Lawyers are seeking a federal court order of protection for a transgender prison inmate who is alleged to have been sexually assaulted for the entertainment of prison guards." -CBS Chicago

"Rather than just leave the former tent city residents alone after forcing their eviction from the Lake Shore Drive viaducts, police instituted a policy of repeated evictions, not allowing them to erect tents or tarps anywhere on public property in Chicago, leaving them at great risk of harm as the city's cold and wet season hits." - Windy City Times

"We dehumanize people when we put them into prisons and jails, we artificially isolate them from any legitimate sexual outlet, and it therefore causes people do things they wouldn't otherwise do," says Alan Mills, a civil rights attorney who's represented incarcerated Illinoisans in a variety of lawsuits.

"Advocates say Illinois’ treatment of prisoners with mental illness is so bad — the prison system is in a “state of emergency.” They’re asking a federal judge to intervene." - Peoria Public Radio

"Attorneys representing some 12,000 mentally ill inmates filed a motion Tuesday asking a federal judge to require Illinois Department of Corrections enforce a 2015 settlement agreement reached in the case of Rasho v. Baldwin." - WTTW

"It makes a lot more sense to treat their mental illness in prison than to wait until they are back living in the community, by which time the effects of incarceration may have only made matters worse." - Chicago Sun Times

Ripper Crew member to join others incarcerated past their parole dates due to housing issues
Ripper Crew member to join others incarcerated past their parole dates due to housing issues

"Inmates who are released after their parole has expired may pose more of a threat to the public in comparison to those who were able to transition into society on parole with monitoring and other conditions." - Chicago Tribune

"UPTOWN — Activists are demanding that an alderman find a place for the homeless to erect their tents after tent city residents were evicted from Uptown's viaducts." -DNAinfo Chicago

"Several dozen people gathered outside the office of Ald. James Cappleman (46th) on Monday night to protest what they blasted as unfair treatment of homeless people and the acceleration of gentrification." -Chicagoist

"Uptown Peoples Law Center Executive Director Alan Mills discusses his lawsuit on behalf of homeless people trying to stop their displacement from a Chicago tent city." - Legal Face Off

"It was that sort of morning Monday for residents of the two dozen or so tents lining Wilson Avenue near North Clarendon, as city workers moved in to dismantle their encampment." - Chicago Sun Times

"Calling home from prison is cumbersome and expensive. For deaf people behind bars, it’s even tougher, sometimes impossible." -The Marshall Project

"Some of the Chicago’s homeless in Uptown were once again displaced by the city Monday morning, after officials told members of the community they had to pack their tents and belongings and move from a parkway to make way for a construction project." - Chicagoist

"The city of Chicago cleared out what was left of the former homeless encampments under Lake Shore Drive in Uptown on Monday morning and required residents to leave a nearby parkway, while advocates abandoned their attempts in court to block the city from starting construction on the crumbling structures." - Chicago Tribune

"Illinois Department of Corrections officials Thursday showed off what will soon be the state's largest residential facility for mentally ill inmates." - The Chicago Tribune

"A federal judge will rule Friday on whether the dozens of homeless residents living in tents under crumbling viaducts in the Uptown neighborhood will be displaced because of a construction project set to begin Monday." -Chicago Tribune

"The (city) wants people to disappear, to be hidden away in corners," said Alan Mills, an attorney with Uptown People's Law Center who is representing Uptown Tent City Organizers and the residents. "Find housing for these people and we'll go away." - Chicago Tribune

"Illinois prison inmates with serious mental illnesses will soon receive hospital-level care as the Department of Corrections puts the finishing touches on the 44-bed Elgin Treatment Center, the first facility to offer such intensive care to state prisoners who have previously been treated inside prison walls." - The Pantagraph

"In the moments after a confrontation with prison guards left inmate Terrance Jenkins unresponsive, the paramedics trying to save his life made a troubling discovery: five small, crumpled balls of what looked like notebook paper lodged in his throat, blocking his airway." - Chicago Tribune

"A group seeking to operate a tent city for homeless people on a pedestrian mall in Uptown is embroiled in a legal battle with the city of Chicago over its plans." - Cook County Record

“If someone has a broken arm and you let them suffer, that’s really no different than putting them on the rack and stretching them,” said Alan Mills, one of the lead attorneys on the suit. “If conditions cause treatable pain and there is a failure to treat the causes of that pain, then that’s punishment for no good penological reason.” - The Atlantic

"A group of Illinois prison inmates will be allowed to move forward with their class action suit claiming health care provided to inmates in the Illinois Department of Corrections violates constitutional standards." - Cook County Record

"Willis was forced into solitary confinement, a practice about 2,000 inmates are currently subjected to within the Illinois Department of Corrections, according to Alan Mills, executive director of Uptown People’s Law Center." - Columbia Chronicle

"A family attorney says the woman who died in a Springfield area hospital after being found unresponsive in the Sangamon County Jail should have been getting mental health treatment." -News Channel 20

"For the last several years, Fields has been held in solitary confinement at Menard Correctional Center in southern Illinois. The practice, which international standards define as the physically-isolated incarceration of individuals in a cell for 22-24 hours per day, constitutes a form of torture according to a recent report from a committee of the United Nations Human Rights Council." - People's World

"In a city where fewer than 1 percent of people in police custody are visited by an attorney, a judge’s order will help the poor access a free lawyer while at the police station." - Huffington Post

"A mentally ill inmate at Pontiac Correctional Center will be allowed to move forward with his federal claims against two doctors he accuses of sending him to segregation in retaliation for making complaints against prison staff." - The Pantagraph

"Despite the lack of a state budget and a slow response to employment ads looking for hundreds of new workers, the Illinois Department of Corrections is making progress in its efforts to improve conditions for 11,000 mentally ill prisoners, according to reports provided Friday in federal court." - The Pantagraph

"A settlement in a federal lawsuit challenging Illinois' parole revocation process will mean legal assistance for many parolees at risk to return to prison if they are unable to defend themselves against alleged parole violations." - The Pantagraph

"Former Illinois inmates accused of violating their paroles and unable to afford an attorney now have a better chance of receiving a fair hearing — and legal counsel — during parole revocation hearings." - Chicago Sun Times

"In Illinois, there is a notorious band of guards called the "Orange Crush" who don orange jumpsuits, body armor and riot helmets to conceal their identity. They carry large clubs and canisters of pepper spray, which they use liberally. A recent lawsuit names a list of horrific abuses that includes strip searches, beatings and mass shakedowns of cells." - TruthOut

"The Illinois Department of Corrections on Wednesday announced most of its workers have completed mental-illness training. It's part of the settlement in a long-running legal dispute over how Illinois prisons treat inmates with mental-heath disorders." - NPR Illinois

Keramet Reiter has uncovered what should be a national scandal in her new book, 23/7: Pelican Bay Prison and the Rise of Long-Term Solitary Confinement. Over the last two decades, Pelican Bay, California’s notoriously brutal supermax prison, has housed thousands of people who are locked in solitary cells, 23 hours a day, for years.

"A settlement in a federal lawsuit will mean major changes in the state's parole revocation process, including the appointment of lawyers for many of more than 8,000 former inmates sent back to prison each year for violating their parole." - The Pantagraph

We hold approximately 100,000 people in solitary confinement — locked in their cells involuntarily 22-24 hours a day, with no meaningful social contact. And solitary is torture. Five years ago, I would not have said that — I thought that sentiment denigrated “real” torture, was inflammatory, and would alienate potential allies who thought solitary wasn’t a good idea but would be turned off by charges of torture.

"The Department of Corrections announced Friday it will take over a section of a state-run mental health hospital in Elgin as a ward for prisoners with mental illness." - Northern Public Radio

Anyone who wants to understand mass incarceration needs to understand Attica. And anyone who wants to understand Attica must read Heather Thompson’s new book, Blood in the Water, the first scholarly history of the Attica prison uprising. It is a riveting tale, but a difficult one to read. Several reviewers have noted that they had to stop reading at several points, to breathe and to wipe the tears from their eyes. I join that group. As difficult as it is, this is a story that must be told.

“Mainstream media seem more interested in covering crime committed by Black people rather than what happens to them afterward,' says attorney Alan Mills of the Uptown People’s Law Center, the lead attorney representing incarcerated plaintiffs in a class action suit against the Illinois Department of Corrections." - Chicago Defender

"Illinois has reached an inter-agency agreement that will allow some of the state’s most severely mentally ill inmates to be treated in an inpatient facility within the Elgin Mental Health Center." - Chicago Sun Times

"A DuPage County man has agreed to a $450,000 settlement with state prison officials to end his claim that staff unjustly punished him five years ago after he reported his cellmate had repeatedly raped him, lawyers announced Friday." - Chicago Tribune

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