Uptown People's Law Center currently has several lawsuits filed against the state of Illinois for unconstitutional prison conditions. This is not a comprehensive list. For more information please contact us at uplc@uplcchicago.org.

Click on the names to learn more. 


Black & Pink v. Baldwin: Censorship in Illinois Prisons

In October 2018, UPLC and the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Chicago chapter of Black & Pink after IDOC censored communication between this organization and LGBTQ prisoners in Illinois.

Burlet v. Baldwin: Stateville Debate Team

In April 2018, the Stateville prison debate program was cancelled after a debate held discussing how Illinois might implement a parole system. This is a clear violation of the First Amendment and we are suing on behalf of the debate coach, Katrina Burlet.

Hampton v. Baldwin: Transgender Woman Housed in Men's Prison

Strawberry Hampton is a transgender woman who has exclusively been held in men's prisons. She has faced endless harassment and abuse by both prisoners and IDOC staff. UPLC is representing Strawberry to ensure that she is moved to a women's prison.

Doe v. Macleod: Sexual Assault at Logan Prison

"Jane Doe" was repeatedly assaulted by her counselor at Logan prison. She was required to go to her counselor in order to have phone calls with her nine-year-old daughter, and was threatened with solitary confinement if she reported the assaults.

Human Rights Defense Center v. Baldwin: Censorship in Illinois Prisons

The Illinois Department of Corrections is withholding Prison Legal News, a monthly criminal justice publication, from prisoners in Illinois. UPLC is representing the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), the non-profit organization that publishes Prison Legal News.

Monroe v. Baldwin: Transgender Woman Housed in Men's Prison

Janiah Monroe is a transgender woman who has exclusively been held in men's prisons. She has faced endless harassment and abuse by both prisoners and IDOC staff. UPLC is representing Janiah to ensure that she is moved to a women's prison.

Tay Tay v. Baldwin: Transgender Woman Housed in Men's Prison

Tay Tay, a transgender woman, has been locked in men's prisons for over 15 years. During this time, the Illinois Department of Corrections has failed to keep her safe, and she has survived endless threats, harassment and assaults. 

Thompson v. Baldwin: Pulitzer Prize-Winning Book Censored in Illinois Prisons

The Illinois Department of Correction has banned Pulitzer Prize-winning book "Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy" in many Illinois prisons. This clearly violates the author's rights to free speech and due process.


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.

  • Kenneth & Harle Montgomery Foundation