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: LGBTQ Prisoners Censored in Illinois 

For over two years, the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) has censored communication between Black & Pink and LGBTQ prisoners in Illinois. This censorship clearly violates the First Amendment, and discriminates against LGBTQ prisoners.

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.

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.


“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.

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."

  • Kenneth & Harle Montgomery Foundation