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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 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

"The Illinois Department of Correction has agreed to pay $450,000 to James Fontano after he was allegedly "punished and humiliated by prison officials" after reporting his cellmate had sexually and physically assaulted him, his attorneys said in a prepared statement." - DNAinfo Chicago

"Illinois prisons are in crisis. They are among the most overcrowded, understaffed and underfunded in the nation- but Gov. Bruce Rauner established himself as a barrier to serious reform." - Chicago Tribune

"When Daletha Hayden arrived at California's Pelican Bay State Prison on Valentine's Day weekend, she expected to visit her son Ian Whitson with a glass window separating them. That was how they had spent each and every one of their visits over the past seven years after Whitson had been labeled a "gang associate" and placed in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) in 2009. There, he was confined to his cell for at least 23 hours each day." - TruthOut

"An eight-year federal court battle to overhaul mental health treatment in Illinois prisons was resolved Friday with a judge ruling that the settlement between inmates and the state, while not perfect, is fair and will improve the lives of thousands of inmates." - The Pantagraph

"In this April 21, 2016 photo, Brian Nelson, right, prisoners' rights coordinator, and Alan Mills, executive director of the Uptown People's Law Center, look at photos of Nelson's former cell at Illinois' Menard Correctional Center. Nelson served years in prison for armed robbery and murder, many of which were in solitary." - The Southern Illinoisan

"SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Brian Nelson’s years in solitary confinement left him terrified of other people, and he says he can still taste the concrete dust from his cell, even though he’s been free since 2010." - AP News

"Recently obtained footage from a surveillance camera inside Cook County Jail shows a burly guard repeatedly punching and kicking a prisoner in the head, even after the prisoner is knocked to the ground and curls up on the floor." - Chicago Sun Times

"Birds have apparently made a mess at the Stateville Correctional Center – and the Illinois Department of Corrections needs somebody to clean up the mess." - The Herald-News

"On Nov. 19, 2014, the door clanged shut behind David Sesson and Bernard Simmons. Sesson put his hands through the food slot to have his handcuffs removed." - NPR News

"New legislation in Springfield would repeal the practice of suing prisoners and parolees for the cost of their incarceration." - Chicagoist

"State lawmakers are seeking to end a little-known but controversial program that tries to recoup the costs of incarceration from current and former inmates, saying the state recovers little money and the program puts up obstacles for prisoners returning to the community." - Chicago Tribune

"They are an elite, mobile Illinois Department of Corrections tactical unit, which civil rights lawyers say regularly humiliated and terrorized more than a thousand Illinois inmates on various occasions using tactics such as forcing them to march naked in single-file, tight formations, causing men’s genitals to press against the buttocks of men in front of them." - Belleville News-Democrat

"Bernadette Rabuy is the Policy & Communications Associate at the Prison Policy Initiative. Bernadette's research has focused on prison and jail visitation and making key criminal justice data accessible to the public." - The Real News

President Obama did issue an executive order banning solitary confinement for juveniles in the federal prison system, and journalists can’t really be blamed for missing the real story, as Obama wrote an op-ed, which led with the story of 16-year-old Kalief Browder, who committed suicide after being held in solitary at Rikers Island prison in New York City. However, the fact is, according to the US Department of Justice, there are just 45 juveniles housed in federal prisons, only 13 of whom are in solitary. Ironically, the federal government does have jurisdiction over thousands of children, many of whom are held in isolation, but they are held in immigration detention centers, which appear to be excluded from this executive order.

"People held in Illinois prisons will receive an improved level of mental health care in coming years, thanks to a major class action settlement in late December." - Solitary Watch

"Eisha Love's Dec. 18 release after spending three years and nine months in Cook County Jail's all-male Division IX without trial led to a number of unanswered questions regarding the attempted murder in the first degree charges that were initially leveled against her." - Windy City Times

"Alan Mills, an attorney working for the mental health rights of Illinois prison inmates, recalled being shocked by the condition of such an inmate he visited at Menard Correctional Center." - The Pantagraph

"The number of inmates in solitary confinement in the State of New York hit a three-year high this past September — over 4,000 prisoners. Prisons blame reform for this increase; the number of non-violent prisoners is slowly dwindling because of formal decarceration efforts and the inmates left behind are a group much more likely to be violent. They’re fighting the guards and themselves and getting tossed in the hole." - Huffington Post

"The Illinois Department of Corrections is bringing a small but increasing number of lawsuits against inmates to recoup the cost of their imprisonment with an intention to help fund operations." - St. Louis Post

"A new report on Illinois policy of suing former inmates to recoup incarceration costs highlights a common practice across the US, as at least 43 states allow 'room and board' or medical fees to be collected from inmates in state or county prisons." - RT

Illinois is ratcheting up lawsuits against inmates to pay for their room and board
Illinois is ratcheting up lawsuits against inmates to pay for their room and board

"The state of Illinois has been pursuing lawsuits against its own inmates to pay for their room and board, the Chicago Tribune reports." - Fusion

"The $31,690 Johnny Melton received to settle a lawsuit over his mother's death was going to help him start life anew after prison.
But before he was released, after 15 months in prison for a drug conviction, the Illinois Department of Corrections sued Melton and won nearly $20,000 to cover the cost of his incarceration." - Chicago Tribune

"Alan Mills, executive director of Uptown People's Law Center in Chicago, told Truthout that in Illinois the lack of Black leaders in positions of political power made "it politically cost-free to call for 'tough-on-crime' measures - as long as the police concentrate enforcement in poor Black communities." He argues this created a "perfect feedback loop." - TruthOut

  • Kenneth & Harle Montgomery Foundation