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How did UPLC come to do prisoners' rights work?

A bit of UPLC history, explaining why we continue to do tenants' rights work in Uptown today.

The horrifying story behind our lawsuit on behalf of Jane Doe, who was sexually assaulted at Illinois' Logan prison.

An overview of our report Cruel and Usual: An Investigation into Prison Abuse at USP Thomson, detailing horrific physical and sexual assaults, as well as emotional cruelty, racism, and other civil rights violations.

Illinois Department of Corrections' director has stepped down; UPLC Executive Director Alan Mills reviews his tenure.

Illinois prisons are toxic, and the water prisoners are forced to drink is unsafe.

The tap water at Stateville has been dangerous for decades.

A coalition of prisoner advocate groups demonstrated Thursday outside the Illinois State building in the West Loop.

They call the lack of quality water in prisons “inhumane”.

A federal monitor says substandard healthcare persists—with horrific consequences—more than a decade after a lawsuit was supposed to compel changes.

Marcia Fudge, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, recently announced the agency is launching a six-month investigation of housing denials based on criminal records in federally subsidized housing. The goal is to establish policies and measures to prevent automatic denials based on an arrest or conviction unless the housing provider can provide evidence of a legitimate safety concern.

Illinois prison and health officials made misleading and inconsistent statements about a Legionella outbreak at several Illinois prisons last month, according to records and interviews with incarcerated people. Advocates and prison watchdogs say the inconsistencies highlight long-standing problems with accountability and oversight of the prison system’s water treatment practices.

Community members are condemning the Illinois Department of Corrections for housing people in unsafe conditions after Legionella bacteria was found in five state prisons last month, with some expressing concern that state officials have misled the public about the extent of the contamination.

Last week, officials in Illinois reported that they had detected legionella bacteria, which can cause Legionnaires’ disease, a potentially fatal type of pneumonia, in the water at two state prisons. The contaminated water was discovered during routine quarterly testing at Stateville Correctional Center and Joliet Treatment Center, according to a statement from the Illinois Department of Corrections and the Illinois Department of Public Health. The agencies said nobody is exhibiting symptoms of the disease.

Prisoners at an Illinois Department of Corrections facility deal with rodents, insects and other unsanitary conditions in cells, bathrooms and the kitchen, according to a lawsuit filed this month by a man against officials with the intake facility in Crest Hill.

Prisoners at an Illinois Department of Corrections facility in Joliet suffer through nightmare living conditions, with rat-infested cells, rotten food and raw sewage overflowing into common areas, a lawsuit says.

Prisoners at an Illinois Department of Corrections intake facility are living among mice, rats, roaches and other insects, have seen feces in the kitchen and are forced to eat rotten food among other issues, according to a lawsuit filed this week by a detainee at the far southwest Crest Hill facility.

I write today to oppose HB 5072 (Manley). This bill seeks to make it a criminal offense to have sex or masturbate in any penal institution. In addition, anyone convicted two or more times under this law would be required to register as a sex offender.

Hundreds of inmates and staff members within Illinois prisons are currently positive for COVID-19, according to the latest IDOC data available online.

A decade after Illinois Department of Corrections inmate Anthony Rodesky began developing the blisters that would eventually lead to a below-the-knee leg amputation, a federal jury in Peoria last week awarded him $400,000, finding the state violated the Americans with Disabilities Act in its treatment of Rodesky’s type 1 diabetes.

At a Georgia state House of Representatives hearing on prison conditions in September, a corrections officer called in to testify, interrupting his shift to tell lawmakers how dire conditions had become.

The standoff between Chicago police and Mayor Lori Lightfoot over the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate once again hoisted Chicago onto the national stage, seemingly pitting the individual rights of law enforcement officers against the health of communities they’re charged with protecting.

More than a decade has passed since incarcerated people filed a class action lawsuit accusing the Illinois Department of Corrections of failing to provide adequate medical care to people in custody. But health care in the state’s prisons still falls short, and the department isn’t moving quickly enough to fix the myriad problems, according to a new report from an independent monitor.

Brian Willis grew up in Park Manor, near 69th Street and King Drive on the South Side. He’s been incarcerated for 25 years and is currently serving a life sentence for murder at Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill, Ill.

Five years after a class action lawsuit found Illinois’ mental health care for inmates in the Department of Corrections unconstitutional, an independent court monitor found that the same problems still exist.

These include an inappropriate use of solitary confinement, failing to properly manage medication, failing to provide adequate treatment plans and extended “crisis watches.”

Christopher Knox already had a long history of living with mental illness when he was sentenced to time in an Illinois prison. He has had a litany of diagnoses, including bipolar disorder and PTSD, and a history of self-harm going back to when he was just 7 years old. When he was locked inside prison at age 19, his mental health deteriorated. He lashed out at a fellow prisoner and he said he was sent to solitary where he was in a cell 23 hours a day, seven days a week.

Recently, Governor Pritzker announced that all staff working in Illinois prisons will have to be vaccinated for COVID-19 by mid-October. Sadly, rather than engaging with the governor, AFSCME, the guards' union, immediately announced that it was opposed to any requirement that staff be vaccinated. The union instead proposed that it will continue to educate staff, in the hope that more staff will agree to vaccinate voluntarily.

The undersigned organizations fully support the governor's mandate regarding vaccinations for prison staff...

The United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois certified all 28,000+ state prisoners to be part of a class Monday in a class action lawsuit challenging IDOC's excessive use of solitary confinement.

Prisons and their surrounding communities would be safer. And a dangerous backlog of people in county jails awaiting transfer would be reduced.

On June 15, 2021, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois certified a class action challenging the constitutionality of the excessive use of extreme isolation (various forms of solitary confinement) by the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC). The Court certified a class of all state prisoners (over 28,000) represented by Winston & Strawn LLP and the Uptown People's Law Center. Accordingly, the ruling expands the case from the six named plaintiffs to a class of all state prisoners seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the IDOC's policies and procedures resulting to the excessive use of extreme isolation.

The latest report on health care in Illinois state prisons (PDF) was released to the public earlier this month. This report was created by Dr. John Raba, an independent, court-appointed monitor, as a result of the class action lawsuit Lippert v. Jeffreys, brought by ACLU of Illinois, Uptown People's Law Center, and Dentons. This lawsuit alleged that the health care provided to prisoners in the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) is unconstitutional, and was settled in January 2019.

As COVID-19 vaccination distribution has expanded across the country, incarcerated people remain one of the populations that is both most vulnerable to COVID-19 and most distrustful of medical care, according to several legal advocacy organizations.

Isolated in solitary confinement as the pandemic swept through Illinois prisons, inmates diagnosed with mental illness are beyond the breaking point, setting fire to their cells and harming themselves after more than a year without adequate mental health care.

After spending 22 years in solitary confinement, Anthony Gay is trying to make sure no other prisoner in Illinois has to experience the same level of trauma that he went through.

For the last 12 years of his three-decade prison sentence, Brian Nelson spent 23 hours a day in solitary confinement.

For more than a decade after he was released, Nelson became an advocate for incarcerated people and sought to reform Illinois’ criminal justice system. The job included reading and answering thousands of letters from prisoners and recounting the horror of his stay in solitary for legislators, including before the Senate.

Brian Nelson was haunted by his experience of being locked in solitary confinement for 23 years in Illinois prisons.

After he was freed in 2010, he dedicated his life to helping other inmates.

The Just Housing Amendment is a law that was put in place to prohibit housing discrimination against people in Cook County who have a criminal record.

As millions of Illinoisans are still waiting for their chance to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and even those who are eligible are scrambling for appointments, at least one group is largely giving up its place at the front of the vaccine line: people who work in Illinois prisons.

As millions of Illinoisans are still waiting for their chance to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and even those who are eligible are scrambling for appointments, at least one group is largely giving up its place at the front of the vaccine line: people who work in Illinois prisons.

More than 1,000 prisoners in Illinois are set to be released after a lawsuit settlement aimed at protecting medically vulnerable prisoners from COVID-19.

The Illinois Department of Corrections will identify medically vulnerable and elderly prisoners eligible for early release or electronic home monitoring.

COVID-19 cases are ticking back upward across Chicago and the rest of Illinois even as vaccine supply improves, the top doctors from the city and state warned Tuesday.

Infections have increased about 23% in Chicago over the past week, mostly among people age 18 to 40, according to city Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady.

More than 1,000 medically vulnerable or elderly inmates in Illinois prisons are set to be released following a settlement agreement in a lawsuit brought last spring against the head of the Illinois Department of Corrections and Gov. J.B. Pritzker, which claimed they weren’t doing enough to protect against COVID-19.

After a deadly second wave of the coronavirus pandemic in Illinois prisons sickened thousands of workers and inmates, the state will begin vaccinating both groups in the coming week — a plan that drew praise from advocates but provoked the ire of some lawmakers who argue criminals should not be prioritized.

People incarcerated in Illinois will be among those vaccinated against coronavirus during the next phase, according to a newly released state plan.

People incarcerated in jails and prisons will be prioritized for vaccines along with people who are 65 and older, certain essential workers and people experiencing homelessness or residing in shelters, according to the plan released Dec. 31 by the state health department. They’ll all be given access to vaccines during the next phase, know as Phase 1B.

Whilst staff at veterans' homes, nursing homes, hospitals and sundry health care facilities balk at getting vaccinated – let-me-think-about-it rates for doctors, nurses and other frontline health care workers are as high as 40 percent nationwide – the state of Illinois has decided that while doses remain scarce, prisoners and the homeless who reside in shelters or frequent day centers are on par with the elderly (75 or older) and "frontline essential workers" who will be second in line after health care workers.

COVID-19 hospitalizations at Illinois corrections department leave incarcerated peoples’ loved ones with questions

Dozens of legal and community advocacy groups signed an open letter Monday urging the Illinois Department of Public Health to prioritize incarcerated individuals and staff working in jails and prisons in its COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

As a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic spread rapidly through Illinois prisons this fall, 73-year-old Watson Gray made another plea to be released from Dixon Correctional Center, where new infections were rising.

As the new COVID-19 surge continues racing through Illinois prisons, with a disturbing rise in inmate deaths in November plus the state’s first staff fatality, corrections officials said they will start to test all prison employees for the virus regardless of whether the workers have symptoms.

Cook County commissioners, housing advocates, and tenants held a virtual press conference Dec. 8, 2020 urging the Cook County Board to pass the proposed Residential Tenant Landlord Ordinance (RTLO), which would safeguard 245,000 suburban county renter households from landlord retaliation, illegal lockouts, and unreasonable fees. Cook County commissioners Scott Britton (14th District) and Kevin Morrison (15th District) are chief sponsors of the ordinance.

In letters and interviews, men inside the facility describe conditions they say are continuing to drive infections at the Illinois prison hardest hit by coronavirus.

In letters and interviews, men inside the facility describe conditions they say are continuing to drive infections at the Illinois prison hardest hit by coronavirus.

Activists and family members of people incarcerated in Vienna Correctional Center are calling on the Illinois Department of Public Health to shut down the minimum-security prison in southern Illinois.

Activists and family members of people incarcerated in Vienna Correctional Center are calling on the Illinois Department of Public Health to shut down the minimum-security prison in southern Illinois.

The prison has been plagued by electrical issues, which caused intermittent power outages over several weeks in May, according to news reports. Prison officials have relied on backup generators, which “generate noxious fumes and are themselves unreliable,” according to the letter, which has over 1,000 signatures.

A federal judge has ruled that the Illinois Department of Corrections ( IDOC ) violated the settlement agreement in a class action lawsuit requiring effective communication for deaf and hard of hearing prisoners. Monday afternoon, Judge Young B. Kim granted plaintiffs' motion to enforce the settlement after efforts to get IDOC to comply with the settlement's requirements were unsuccessful.

Monday night, I watched from my office window as thousands of protesters flooded the streets. It was the largest protest I’ve seen in Uptown in the 40 years that I’ve lived and worked here.

An amended lawsuit filed against Rob Jeffreys, director of the Illinois Department of Corrections, and Gov. J.B. Pritzker last week claims that the state’s prison system has failed to protect medically vulnerable prisoners from COVID-19.

For weeks, two houses in Illinois’ Vienna Correctional Center ran on generator power and had intermittent failures. The outages made it harder to use the shared bathroom, one of the few places they could wash their hands.

COVID-19 continues to have a devastating effect on one of Chicago’s most vulnerable congregate populations: jail and prison detainees. At least 153 inmates and 147 staffers in Illinois state prisons are currently diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections

As efforts continue to slow the spread of COVID-19 at Cook County Jail by reducing the inmate population, Gov. J.B. Pritzker could help the effort with the stroke of a pen.

Today’s guest is Alan Mills, the Executive Director of the Uptown People’s Law Center in Chicago. Alan has been fighting for the rights of imprisoned people for decades and has played a key role in recent efforts to free prisoners who are locked in facilities where the coronavirus is spreading like wildfire. Alan, welcome to the show.

Preventing the spread of covid-19 is difficult everywhere. But prisons are among the hardest places to protect. Worldwide there are 11m behind bars, according to Penal Reform International, a pressure group. That is the highest figure ever.

An Illinois lawmaker and a county sheriff are raising fresh concerns about Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s decision to release inmates as the spread of COVID-19 continues in the state’s prisons, including questions about transparency.

A federal judge Friday blocked a bid by state prisoners for an accelerated release or transfer amid the coronavirus, finding state officials’ current processes don’t violate their constitutional rights.

An Illinois federal judge on Friday refused to order the temporary release of nearly a third of the state’s prison population in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, saying the inmates aren’t entitled to such extraordinary relief “even in these extraordinary times.”

A federal judge cleared the way for a teacher to pursue a lawsuit accusing Illinois prison officials of violating her right to free speech when they canceled a debate course she taught behind bars.

A federal judge on Friday denied a request for the state to immediately release potentially thousands of at-risk detainees from Illinois prisons, saying that while the coronavirus pandemic is clearly a serious threat there was “no convincing reason for a federal court to intrude here and now."

It took a prisoner’s death ‘just for them to pass out a single extra bar of soap,’ one incarcerated man said.

Pritzker's executive order gives the Illinois Department of Corrections permission to allow "medically vulnerable" inmates out of prison temporarily.

Pritzker's executive order gives the Illinois Department of Corrections permission to allow "medically vulnerable" inmates out of prison temporarily.

So far, three incarcerated men in Illinois — two who had been housed at Stateville prison in Crest Hill and a detainee at the Cook County Jail – have died from complications related to the coronavirus.

The night after the first man at Stateville Correctional Center died from COVID-19, a prisoner we’re referring to as “Harold,” said he was watching the nightly news in his cell. (WBEZ has agreed to not identify the prisoner by his real name.)

The night after the first man at Stateville Correctional Center died from COVID-19, a prisoner we’re referring to as “Harold,” said he was watching the nightly news in his cell. (WBEZ has agreed to not identify the prisoner by his real name.)

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is deploying medics from the Illinois National Guard to the Illinois Department of Corrections facility, where advocates have declared a ‘disaster.’

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s failure to release vulnerable prisoners from overcrowded facilities will cost unnecessary loss of life behind bars and in surrounding communities, say advocates and medical professionals.

A group of civil rights attorneys initiated a united legal challenge Thursday against Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Corrections, demanding the immediate release of Illinois prisoners vulnerable to the coronavirus.

The effort includes a proposed class-action lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court, naming Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Rob Jeffreys, director of the Illinois Department of Corrections, as defendants.

The man was imprisoned at Stateville Correctional Center, where officials say there are now 12 men who are hospitalized, "including several requiring ventilators."

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- A day after the state announced one Illinois prison inmate had died of COVID-19 and that more inmates and staff had tested positive for the coronavirus, a legal services group is renewing its call for thousands of inmates to be released.

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- A day after the state announced one Illinois prison inmate had died of COVID-19 and that more inmates and staff had tested positive for the coronavirus, a legal services group is renewing its call for thousands of inmates to be released.

A man incarcerated at the Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill is among eight new deaths from the Coronavirus in Illinois, and 18 other inmates were taken to AMITA Health Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, officials said.

Officials knew two weeks ago just what kind of crisis loomed outside the front doors of the sprawling Cook County Jail.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Illinois officials on Monday reported the death of a state prison inmate from COVID-19 and acknowledged the difficulty they face in stopping the spread of the virus in a crowded correctional system.

Health officials announced Monday the death of a Stateville Correctional Center inmate from COVID-19, the first confirmed death from the disease at an Illinois state prison.

We must act quickly. We urge officials to promptly release detainees who can be released safely.

COOK COUNTY, Il -- The number of detainees at Cook County Jail with COVID-19 has risen to 38, Sheriff Tom Dartsaid Friday in a news conference.

CHICAGO (CBS) — As has been discussed for weeks, hospitals are expected to reach or exceed capacity during the coronavirus pandemic. And as cases of COVID-19 spread through prisons, medical resources you or a loved one might need at your local hospitals will be up for grabs.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart is slamming Illinois Gov. JB Prtizker’s decision to largely stop accepting new prisoners into the Illinois Department of Corrections, an attempt to slow the rapid spread of COVID-19 behind bars. Instead of going into state prisons, those detainees will be held in jails under the supervision of county sheriffs.

Prisoners are “especially vulnerable to contracting and spreading COVID-19,” Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker wrote in his executive order.

The Illinois Department of Corrections will refuse to take in new prisoners, with very limited exceptions, as the state seeks to slow the spread of COVID-19 behind bars. An executive order halting new prison admissions was issued Thursday by Gov. JB Pritzker as a total of 12 corrections staff and prisoners have tested positive for COVID19.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Thursday issued an executive order halting new prisoners to the Illinois Department of Corrections amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Three prisoners and three staff members have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections. Health experts say cases of the disease in correctional facilities are particularly alarming because it can spread quickly in the crowded and often unsanitary conditions.

NEW YORK -- The board overseeing New York City's jails urged officials to start releasing vulnerable populations and those being held on low-level offenses as the coronavirus outbreak hit the notorious Rikers Island complex and nearby jails - infecting at least 38 people.

CHICAGO (CBS) — As the Illinois stay-at-home order approaches the one-day mark, Gov. JB Pritzker called on volunteers to step up Sunday amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Are Illinois prisons equipped to handle the COVID-19 pandemic? Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s answer to this question during his stop in Murphysboro on Wednesday hovered somewhere around maybe. The uncertainty he expressed brings into sharp relief the serious concerns around what would happen if any of the state’s already overcrowded penal institutions experience an outbreak.

Illinois prisons are a tinderbox for a potential coronavirus outbreak, but advocates and family of prisoners say the Department of Corrections isn’t providing the basic supplies to keep both staff and prisoners safe.

Illinois prisons are a tinderbox for a potential coronavirus outbreak, but advocates and family of prisoners say the Department of Corrections isn't providing the basic supplies to keep both staff and prisoners safe.

There have not yet been any cases of COVID-19 identified within the Cook County Jail, but the Sheriff’s Department says it’s taking additional steps to reduce the jail population in an effort to keep the deadly virus outside its walls as advocates have called for widespread release of detainees.

The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) has been telling the press that it is passing out hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies and antibacterial soap to people incarcerated in its prisons as a preventative measure against the spread of coronavirus.

As alarm over the coronavirus pandemic continues to grow, corrections and law enforcement officials are grappling with the daunting prospect of having to manage an outbreak inside the walls of Illinois’ jails and prisons.

“We now have no idea what’s going on inside.”

There are nearly 7,800 incarcerated people in state prisons age 50 or older. Advocates say many, if not most, of them could be safely released to the public.

Transgender prisoners are almost never housed according to their identity, an investigation found.
That’s putting many in danger.

With an eye toward expansion, Southern Illinois School of Medicine plans to hire doctors to work in Illinois prisons, which are under pressure to improve health care that critics say amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

The records of private companies that work with the state of Illinois may be a little more accessible following a decision this week from the state Supreme Court.

It's easy to underestimate the brutality of boredom, but people in prison will tell you that keeping your mind occupied is essential to survival. Paulette Fiedler, a 69-year-old prisoner at Logan Correctional Center in Illinois, keeps her mind alive by reading — she plows through book after book.

The Illinois Department of Corrections has revised its publication review policy to include a centralized appeal process for incarcerated people who feel they’ve been unfairly denied access to certain reading materials.

Even after a major class action suit required Illinois to revamp its prison healthcare system, doctors whose alleged neglect resulted in major injury or death still remain on the prison system payroll.

Illinois corrections officials have issued a sweeping new regulation that appears to prohibit prisoners from being sent materials downloaded from the internet.

Earlier this year, Danville prison removed about 200 books, many of which dealt with race issues. But the new rules don’t go far enough, says one advocate.

When recent news reports revealed that a number of Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) staff maintained a private Facebook group they used to dehumanize, taunt and degrade transgender prisoners and people of color, we were not surprised.

A Prisoner Review Board memo released in July requires a minimum of 12 hours of movement with ankle monitors, but some people say they’re still being given far less.

More than a dozen correctional employees in Illinois are under investigation after they were accused of mocking transgender inmates in private Facebook groups, state officials said.

At least 25 Illinois Department of Corrections employees have taken part in online conversations that mocked, demeaned, or disclosed personal and medical information about transgender inmates — including calling transgender women “it” and “he” — in two private Facebook groups, an Injustice Watch review has found.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker says his administration is committed to passing legislation that will promote transparency around prison deaths, even though the Illinois Department of Corrections under him opposed legislation in the spring that would have done just that. His office refuses to detail what concerns the administration had with that legislation or what fixes it would like to see included in any proposed bill, saying only that the office had “logistical concerns with the measure as written.”

What if prisons moved past archaic notions of “punishment” and shifted instead towards rehabilitation models? Stateville Calling explores the possibility of restoring incarcerated people’s lives, highlighting the personal narratives of elderly prisoners. Directed by Ben Kolak and produced by Yana Kunichoff, the hour-long documentary follows the current battle to pass legislation reinstating parole in Illinois, which the state hasn’t had since 1978.

The mass strip search was purportedly carried out as part of a cadet training exercise, meaning that the women were subjected to this humiliating violation without even the pretext of an immediate safety need.

Court interpreters are in high demand in Cook County, home to 743,200 people with limited English proficiency—around 15% of the population. But in recent years, the number of full-time interpreters has decreased. In 2014, the county had 34 full-time interpreters; now, there are 29.

While I know nothing about Epstein’s death in particular, I know a lot about suicide in jails and prisons. Prisons are toxic to mental health. They are places of violence.

Officials at an Illinois prison suspended an educational program for inmates, launched two internal investigations and removed 200 books from a prison library because many had “racial” content or addressed issues like diversity and inclusion, according to records obtained by the Tribune.

For nine and a half months, Lydia Thornton was locked into her cell nearly 24 hours a day. All of her meals were slid through a slot in the cell’s steel door. She was allowed outside to shower three times each week. Through cinderblock walls, she could hear women in adjoining cells screaming for hours on end. Sometimes they threatened to kill themselves, a threat often followed by an eerie silence.

Two House committees listened to testimony Monday from the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) and other groups involving an incident in which books provided to educate prisoners at the Danville Correctional Center were seized from the library by prison staff.

CHICAGO — A transgender woman who was battling the Illinois Department of Corrections over alleged abuse while she was incarcerated has been released from prison, officials said Tuesday.

Transgender inmate Strawberry Hampton is out of prison after waging a two-year battle to be housed with women to escape the horrors she says she suffered at the hands of male guards and prisoners.

A transgender woman who garnered national attention after making abuse allegations against guards and inmates at multiple Illinois men’s prisons is now free following a public campaign for her release.

The new director of the Illinois Department of Corrections said during a legislative hearing in Chicago on Monday that the agency plans to revise its policy regarding what books can and cannot enter the prison.

CHICAGO — A transgender woman who was battling the Illinois Department of Corrections over alleged abuse while she was incarcerated has been released from prison, officials said Tuesday.

During a forum held July 3 at Malcolm X College, state Rep. La Shawn K. Ford (8th), activists and formerly incarcerated individuals addressed some of the injustices in the criminal justice system.

Lawmakers and advocates are pushing to limit solitary confinement and improve the health care, political representation and voting rights of state prisoners.

We'll hear the story of why 200 books were removed by staff from a prison library in Central Illinois.

PEORIA — A shortage of psychiatrists and other trained staff has hindered the state's efforts to comply with a federal injunction mandating improvements to the care provided to about 12,000 mentally ill inmates.

Overall, 60 percent of the eviction cases filed end with a judgment against a tenant, but when tenants have legal representation their chances of staying housed increase substantially.

“As a result of the IDOC’s systemic failure to keep trans women in custody safe from sexual violence, Tay Tay has survived attacks, threats and constant harassment.”

Illinois Department of Corrections officials this week approved the transfer of a transgender inmate from an all-male prison to a women’s prison after she repeatedly claimed she’d been the victim of sexual harassment and abuse.

Incarcerated trans people can fight to create legal precedents that help the whole transgender community. Here are five who fought for important legal victories.

Illinois lawmakers are considering a bill that would force prisons and jails in Illinois to provide information about how people in their custody die. The Illinois Department of Corrections often doesn’t provide basic information to families or the public and keeps shoddy and incomplete records, according to documents turned over to WBEZ by prison administrators.

Lawyers for a transgender woman held at the Pontiac men's prison have filed a lawsuit asking that she be moved to a women's facility, and an end to alleged sexual assault and harassment she has experienced for a decade.

A transgender woman incarcerated at the Pontiac Correctional Center in central Illinois has filed a federal lawsuit seeking a transfer to a women’s prison. The Uptown People’s Law Center and the MacArthur Justice Center filed a federal suit Tuesday on behalf of 29-year-old Janiah Monroe, according to a statement from the UPLC.

Nicole Davis said her uncle was diagnosed with late-stage cancer after his release from prison in 2014. He was confined to his home because of an electronic monitoring device strapped to his ankle. He missed many necessary doctor appointments before he died, Davis said. She said that’s because he couldn’t get permission from his parole officer for the medical visits.

"There were a lot of times my sons tried calling me,” recalled Annette Taylor, who regularly receives calls from her two sons in prison, “but there was no money on the account.” Those were some of the “hardest calls,” she said. “I would worry something was wrong.”

LINCOLN — When the light catches the specks of glitter on her face, Deon Hampton looks the part of a stage performer, a role she hopes to play after leaving prison. Hampton, who adopted the name "Strawberry" as a child after realizing her male body did not match her female identity, was transferred to the women's facility in Lincoln in December after a federal judge ruled the Department of Corrections failed to protect Hampton when she lived in male prisons.

The family of Chicago resident Charles Edward Jones who passed away in custody in 2015 is set to receive $1 million in a wrongful death lawsuit. The funds are to be paid by the city’s taxpayers.

Inadequate treatment of mentally ill prisoners is a problem across the U.S. When psychiatric institutions began closing down in the 1950s, they weren't replaced with mental health services in the community. So, many people with mental illness have scrapes with the law, and end up in prisons that are ill-equipped to treat them.

Our executive director Alan Mills makes a request of Illinois' new governor.

Just before Christmas, the 27-year-old transgender inmate was granted a rare transfer to a women’s prison in alignment with her gender identity. The move came amid her yearlong court battle chronicling allegations of abuse and sexual assault by both inmates and corrections staff at four men’s facilities across Illinois.

Ashoor Rasho has spent more than half of his life alone in a prison cell—22 to 24 hours a day. The cell was so narrow he could reach his arms out and touch both walls at once.

"I was in Tamms, Pontiac, Menard, Dixon, Shawnee." Gay said, "Pretty much five prisons transferred back and forth to one solitary cell to the next."

Victim's advocate Dawn Valenti believes a long sentence is just. Alan Mills of the Uptown People's Law Center calls the sentence inhumane.

“We hope this is the beginning of the end of prisoners’ needless suffering and even death. It is a long road, and we are committed to ensuring the necessary changes are made,” declared Alan Mills, executive director of the Uptown People’s Law Center.

A federal court has ordered the State of Illinois to address its “failure to . . . meet the constitutional requirements with respect to the mental health needs of” its approximately 12,000 prisoners with mental illness. This case reached a settlement agreement in 2016, but the Illinois Department of Corrections failed to live up to the agreement, and constitutional violations continued.

Amid claims of preventable deaths and substandard medical care, state officials have agreed to a sweeping overhaul of the health care system at prisons across Illinois, according to a proposed federal consent decree filed in Chicago on Thursday.

The Illinois Department of Corrections has agreed to a plan that would allow a federal judge to oversee health care in the state’s prisons. The agreement comes eight years after a lawsuit was filed alleging the treatment in Illinois’ prisons is so poor that it violates the constitution.

With his mental state deteriorating as he sat in the crushing isolation of solitary confinement, a desperate inmate named Anthony Gay saw a temporary way out.

Sometimes it came in the form of a contraband razor blade. Occasionally it was a staple from a legal document or a small shard of something he had broken.

The Illinois Department of Corrections moved a transgender woman from a men’s prison into a women’s prison. The move happened over a year after the inmate filed a lawsuit against the agency claiming she was a target for repeated sexual assaults, taunting, and beatings.

A transgender woman who described feeling like a “sex slave” while incarcerated in several men’s prisons across Illinois has been transferred to a women’s prison after a yearlong court fight.

After a year-long battle, a transgender woman held at an all-male prison was moved to an all women prison within the past week.

A transgender woman serving a 10-year sentence for burglary has been moved from an all-male prison to a women's correctional center.

PEORIA — A federal judge issued a final order Thursday directing the state Department of Corrections to remedy deficiencies in care to more than 12,000 mentally ill inmates.

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.

Yesterday, the story circulated in the press and on Facebook about the owner of the Cubs pouring money into support of Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court. In response, many people posted comments touting how they were White Sox fans, and thus untainted by the Cubs' owners’ conservative agenda. I posted a comment in response that the White Sox have their own sordid history...and several people asked for details.

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

The Illinois Department of Corrections recently published proposed regulations which take some important steps towards reducing the harm done to those held in solitary confinement in Illinois prisons. However, the regulations continue to allow solitary far in excess of the 15-day maximum permitted under international law, and fail to address many of the inhumane conditions in…

"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

On June 30th the nurse who gave Molly her drugs did not give them to her in separate tubes. Instead, the nurse mixed them all together after they were crushed. Molly refused to take them that way, as she wanted to know which drugs she was being given. The nurse insisted that she was required to take all the drugs—which was not true. Rather than offering Molly the drugs separately, or having her talk to a mental health professional, the nurse called out the “Orange Crush”—the tactical team responsible for using physical force to make prisoners do what they are told.

"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

Introductory Note: On March 23, 2017, I represented Reuben Taylor before Illinois’ Prisoner Review Board (our version of a parole board). After lengthy discussion, the Board voted 6-8 to deny Mr. Taylor parole. Emblematic of the feeling of several members of the Board was a statement made by Mr. Johnson explaining his vote. He stated…

The headline from a recent Pantagraph article screams, “Prosecutor files 14 cases against inmates in Pontiac incidents.” This is misleading and announces a terrible policy. Why is the headline misleading? It sounds like the Livingston County State’s Attorney held a press conference to announce that he had just filed a slew of new cases against…

"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

Yesterday, I traveled to Springfield to attend a meeting of JCAR to consider regulations proposed by the Illinois Department of Corrections, about changes in the way Illinois keeps people in solitary confinement in its prisons. Between 6am and the time I arrived, the meeting time had been changed, so I missed the meeting. While I…

"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

For years, slum landlords in Uptown used "rent to own" schemes to defraud tenants, and escape building code enforcement. They would "sell" large buildings in deep disrepair to someone from the neighborhood--selling a dream that someday the tenant could own the whole building. The "owner" would in the meantime act as the manager, without pay (because they "owned" the building, collecting rent, and passing along almost all of it to the real owner, allegedly towards the purchase price.

"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

Dr. 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 alone, 23 hours a day, for years. Despite its controversial regime of extreme isolation, Pelican Bay was built with no public debate at all.

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.

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.

Recently, I visited with a man named Lamont, a prisoner at Menard Correctional Center. He’s 34 years old and grew up in Chicago. Lamont is Black. Lamont was first diagnosed with a serious mental illness at the age of 10. As a child, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression. He…

"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

Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting with Amy. She is an extremely pleasant young woman, and a joy to talk with. We chatted about what we were reading, how we spent our day, family—all of the things you talk about with your friends every day. But this conversation was different: Amy is a…

"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

Most people don’t even know that Illinois regularly sues former prisoners for the costs of their incarceration, and because virtually everyone who ends up in prison is poor, the State recoups very little from these cases—a total of $355,000 in FY2015 (the most that has been recovered in the last decade—almost all from one person).

Earlier this week, I celebrated my 60th birthday. As we get older, our friends tend to get older too, and inevitably we start attending more funerals. Last night, I went to a memorial service for Melvin Haywood. Next week, I will go to a funeral for Ra Chaka. Over the last few weeks, I have followed…

I am appalled, saddened, and angered by the vote this week by the Chicago City Council to give $16 million in taxpayer money to subsidize a luxury high-rise development on the site of the old Cuneo Hospital/Maryville Hospital in Uptown. This $16 million TIF will divert much-needed money from Chicago’s schools and parks over the…

"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

Aaron Fillmore was locked up at the age of 19. Now 41 years old, he has spent his entire adult life in prison. For over 17 years, he has been held in solitary—locked in a cell 23+ hours a day, with no meaningful social contact.

The US spends billions of dollars locking human beings in cages. We imprison more people than any other country in the history of the Earth. Over 2 million people are in prison in this country on any given day. We have a higher rate of incarceration than any other country on earth. We lock up…

"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

Today, I saw Patrice Daniels at Stateville Correctional Center. I have been visiting prisoners at Stateville (located near Joliet, about an hour south of Chicago) for the last 35 years. Over the last year, I have visited with scores of seriously mentally ill prisoners. Today’s visit with Patrice was the most difficult, infuriating visit I…

"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

On Friday, January 29th, a UPLC intern and I spent the day visiting women at Logan Correctional Center. The primary purpose of the visit was to meet with prisoners who suffered from mental illness—all of whom are members of the plaintiff class in our recently-settled case challenging the way people with mental illness are treated in Illinois prisons (Rasho v. Baldwin). Yet again, these meetings drove home just how many seriously hurting people we house behind bars, and how far away we are from providing them with decent treatment. The details of some of the conversations I had are confidential, and covered by attorney-client privilege. Other women specifically gave me permission to share their stories.

"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.

Cara Taylor passed away today. Since 2002, we at UPLC represented Cara, first in her fight for disability benefits, and later in a series of battles she had with her landlord.

"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

"Almost 200 individuals experiencing homelessness and their advocates marched on 46th Ward Ald. James Cappleman's Uptown home and, then, his office Nov. 9 to protest what organizers called "an apparent campaign to drive [homeless] people out of Uptown." - Windy City Times

"When Jerome Jones was placed in solitary confinement in 2013 at the Lawrence Correctional Center, no one told him why. In fact, he says he wasn’t given a reason until six months after the fact — when officials alleged at an administrative hearing that it was because of his gang associations. But Jones, who is currently still being held in solitary, says he is not a gang member." - Al Jazeera

"A federal judge has granted class action status for a lawsuit filed in 2011 on behalf of 11 deaf and hard of hearing inmates at the Illinois Department of Corrections alleging systemic failures by the department to provide critical accommodations as required by law." - The Southern Illinoisan

"Two experts are touring several Illinois prisons this week to review mental health care and the use of segregation as part of a federal lawsuit on the state's treatment of mentally ill prisoners." - The Pantagraph

"A federal judge ruled that a lawsuit accusing a former acting director of the Illinois Department of Corrections of failing to provide accommodations to deaf and hard-of-hearing prisoners can go to trial as a class-action suit." - Chicago Tribune

A dozen activists are slowly starving themselves, now entering the third week of a hunger strike demanding that the mayor and the Board of Education save Bronzeville’s only community high school.

"Uptown People’s Law Center, Illinois Coalition Against Torture, United Voices for Prisoners and Black & Pink Chicago gathered with community members, former prisoners and their families to host a rally at the Thompson Center July 23 to protest the opening of the Thompson Correctional Center, which has 1,500 solitary cells." - Atlanta Daily World

"For 23 hours a day, a roughly five-by-ten-foot concrete box is what Aaron Fillmore calls home. He’s been living in a room like that for the past 15 years." - Illinois Times

Horrific health care
Horrific health care

"When Rubin Watts arrived at the Dixon Correctional Center infirmary in 2007, his legs and feet were red and swollen, with stinking open wounds that were oozing pus and a bloody discharge. He had a skin infection called cellulitis and a history of mental illness." - Illinois Times

"A class action lawsuit filed this week on behalf of former and current inmates is challenging the widespread use of solitary confinement by the Illinois Department of Corrections." - Chicago Reporter

During years in solitary confinement, Brian Nelson says he spent the days pacing in his 5-by-12-foot cell to the point that each week brought new blood blisters to his feet.

"By the time he had served five years for armed robbery, Mark had lost 80 pounds. He had developed a new tic — tightly closing his eyes, as if blinking back bad thoughts. But the biggest change, his mother said, was in his face. It had hardened. A deep crease ran along the bridge of his nose." - The Marshall Project

"In prison, Brian Nelson lived in solitary confinement. That meant 23 hours a day in a small cell. No human contact, except with guards — for 12 years straight." - NPR

"Unqualified staff and inadequate care have contributed to some 60 percent of non-violent deaths in Illinois prisons, according to a new report released Wednesday." - Chicagoist

"Scathing independent report finds sweeping problems in health care at state's prisons." - Chicago Tribune

"The 55-year-old inmate with a family history of lung cancer was coughing up blood the day he arrived at the medium security Illinois River prison in November 2012." - Chicago Tribune

'Sentenced: Architecture and Human Rights' Opens Thursday
'Sentenced: Architecture and Human Rights' Opens Thursday

"A collaborative effort between Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR) and Uptown People’s Law Center (UPLC), the exhibit aims to show the conditions of solitary confinement, the damage it does on prisoners and to “bring voices of imprisoned people into the dialogue of the struggle to end cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment in the United States.” - Chicagoist

"On May 1, 2010, the medical technician making the morning rounds at Stateville prison in Illinois allegedly denied Donald Lippert, a type I diabetic, his shot of insulin. Lippert’s blood sugar shot up, and after growing dizzy, he collapsed onto the floor of his cell and urinated on himself. According to a grievance he filed with the prison, Lippert’s glucose level was a staggering 451 when nurses arrived around lunchtime. The average range is between 70 and 180." - The Marshall Project

Dear Mom, you have 30 days to get out
Dear Mom, you have 30 days to get out

"Miguel Pena is asking a Cook County judge to evict his elderly mother from the Gage Park home they shared for many years." - Chicago Sun Times

Over the past year the Uptown People’s Law Center has received numerous letters from prisoners at Menard Correctional Center, initially, and more recently from another lower security southern prisons such as Shawnee Correctional Center. The letters describe a policy wherein the state tactical team lines up men, handcuffs them behind their backs and then forces the man behind him to follow so closely that his genitals are either in the hands of the man in front or touching his behind. Amongst the prison populations this is known as "nut to butt."

Four and one-half feet by ten feet. 45 square feet. Until last summer, that was the size of the cells in the segregation unit at Illinois’ Menard prison–Illinois’ largest prison, housing over 3,000 men. There are no windows in these cells. The cell-fronts are not open bars, like you typically see on television: the cell-fronts are solid steel, broken up only by a small window so guards can see in, and a feeding slot which is kept locked. The beds are approximately 3 ½ feet wide. There is a toilet/sink at the back of each cell. That leaves a tiny rectangle about 1 foot wide, and 8 feet long of open floor space–not enough room to comfortably pace back and forth.

Chateau Hotel: Remaining Tenants Have Until Friday to Vacate
Chateau Hotel: Remaining Tenants Have Until Friday to Vacate

"The few tenants who remain in the Chateau Hotel have until Friday to leave after a judge's ruling last week." - DNAinfo

"A lawsuit over health care in prisons in Illinois is getting a boost from the American Civil Liberties Union. The federal class action lawsuit charges the Department of Corrections and Wexford Health Sources, a private healthcare company, with providing wholly inadequate health care to inmates." - WBEZ

"This place is one hundred times better than Tamms," a prisoner in the Pontiac Correctional Center told me in a recent letter. "I was able to purchase a regular Bic ink pen and a regular-size toothbrush." - Chicago Reader

We at the Law Center have recently received dozens of letters from prisoners at Stateville, Menard and Pontiac, complaining that the Department had instituted a new policy of banning all typewriters (typewriters which prisoners had purchased at the prison commissary), and banning any prisoner from having more than one fan.

Illinois Governor Quinn has taken the decisive step to finally close Tamms Supermax prison in Southern Illinois.

"Supermax prisons have been a growth industry in the United States since at least 1989, when California opened its notorious lockup at Pelican Bay. Today, at least 44 states and the federal government maintain supermax prisons where upwards of 25,000 inmates are confined to small cells 23/7. Despite the high cost of solitary confinement and a growing movement that denounces this kind of long-term isolation as a form of torture, supermax prisons just keep on opening. They rarely ever close."

"For at least 23 hours a day, prisoners sit in solitary confinement in 7-by-12-foot cells. There is no mess hall. Meals are shoved through a chuckhole in cell doors. Contact with the outside world is sharply restricted."

Alan Mills, legal director, Uptown People's Law Center
Alan Mills, legal director, Uptown People's Law Center

"In the late 60s, as the coal mines in Appalachia were closing down, there was a huge migration from the coalfields to Chicago. As they got older, they began to have problems from black lung disease. They applied for disability benefits, and were told by the Social Security offices, 'There are no coal miners in Chicago. Go back to Appalachia.' They wanted to get health care, and they were told, 'We don't know anything about black lung. That's a problem in the south." - Chicago Reader

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