Illinois Department of Corrections

Illinois lawmakers plan to ask state prison officials why more than 200 books were removed from a colle

IDOC

An event aimed at helping former inmates reintegrate has drawn hundreds of people in Springfield.

Several state agencies hosted an expo earlier this week at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. Some of the services included a free haircut, free health screenings and tips on how to open a bank account and pursue new professional licenses. It is called the Summit of Hope.

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When she found out that staff at the Danville Correctional Center had removed more than 200 books from a library inside the prison’s education wing, Rebecca Ginsburg said she felt a pit in her stomach.

“I felt sick,” she said. Ginsburg directs the Education Justice Project, a college in prison program that offers University of Illinois classes to men incarcerated at the Danville prison in east-central Illinois. In late January, prison staff removed dozens of titles from two rooms that serve as the program’s library.

News Analysis — The Illinois Department of Corrections did not fare well in a recent state audit. Among the findings was that the agency could not account for 3,568 pieces of equipment.

Dig into the numbers and property records, and you’ll find a bigger story about the challenges of pursuing efficiency in state government.

Illinois lawmakers want to eliminate medical co-pays for prisoners.

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Governor J.B. Pritzker has nominated an Ohio prison official to lead the Illinois Department of Corrections.

It’s one of the toughest jobs in state government. And when Rob Jeffreys starts work June 1, he’ll immediately become the lead defendant in a number of lawsuits.

One of them is being pursued by Camille Bennett, with the ACLU of Illinois. She argues Illinois' prison health care is so bad, its unconstitutional.

Illinois lawmakers want to divert more people convicted of crimes from prison to boot camp.

A new report suggests a third of the deaths in Illinois prisons are preventable.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

A proposal by reform advocates would cut the number of women locked up in Illinois prisons by as much as half.  

Nearly 2,300 women are now serving time in Illinois, the Chicago Tribune reported. Reform advocates argue that the corrections system has largely ignored the needs of female inmates, many of whom suffered years of trauma, abuse or poverty before winding up behind bars.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Illinois prison officials are being accused of letting a transgender inmate be harassed and assaulted.
 

Strawberry Hampton is 27 years old, and her lawyers say she’s lived as a woman since the age of 5. But the Department of Corrections classifies her as a male, named Deon Hampton — in keeping with Hampton’s birth certificate.

That’s meant housing Hampton in a series of all-male prisons.

Attorney Alan Mills, with the Uptown People’s Law Center, says Hampton has repeatedly been assaulted, by both guards and inmates.

DeVonte Jones began to show signs of schizophrenia as a teenager. His first public episode was nine years ago at a ball game at Wavering Park in Quincy, Illinois.

“He snapped out and just went around and started kicking people,” said Jones’ mother Linda Colon, who now lives in Midlothian in the Chicago suburbs.


CREDIT "PRISON BARS" BY FLICKR USER MICHAEL COGHLAN / (CC X 2.0)

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.

The ruling comes after attorneys representing inmates filed a claim last year with the court that the department was not following through on a settlement reached in 2016 to overhaul mental health treatment in Illinois prisons.

Every Sunday, a group of women meets in the basement of a church in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood to sort and package boxes of books. The boxes are sent to women in prisons in Illinois and beyond the state’s borders. In total, the group, Chicago Books to Women in Prison (BWP), has sent nearly 20,000 books to incarcerated women in the last five years, and tens of thousands since the organization was founded in 2002.


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The Illinois Department of Corrections says a major cash crunch has it struggling to keep its facilities running.

The warning came Wednesday at a Senate budget hearing. But some Democratic lawmakers say that was the first time they were hearing the situation was so dire.

On a summer day in 2016, state prison officials were on the brink of a crisis at Western Illinois Correctional Center.

The labor union representing Illinois prison workers and the Illinois Department of Corrections agree that assaults on staff have increased in recent years.

DOC counted a 27 percent increase over fiscal years — 566 in the year that ended June 30, 2015, to 761 in the year that ended last June 30. AFSCME projected 819 assaults in calendar year 2017, based on year-to-date data, up from 541 in 2015.

The Illinois Department of Corrections is launching its first “Life Skills Reentry Center” in Kewanee.

It aims to teach a variety of skills to prisoners during the final years of their sentence.  Then, officials hope, they will be less likely to commit another crime upon release.  Example topics include cognitive behavioral therapy, sending e-mails, and making a personal budget.  

Warden Tony Williams says such skills may be things inmates haven't necessarily been exposed to due to their incarceration.

IDOC

The Illinois Department of Corrections has agreed to pay $450,000 to a man who says prison officials punished and humiliated him after he reported his cellmate raped him.

The man's attorneys announced the settlement of his federal lawsuit Friday.

He was imprisoned for eight months for a minor drug offense, and was housed in a cell at the Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln with a gang member serving 22 years for armed robbery.

The lawsuit says his cellmate raped him in August 2011.

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An Illinois prison spokeswoman says an assault on six workers by five inmates at the maximum-security Pontiac Correctional Center appears to have resulted from a failure to follow workplace safety procedures.

Illinois Department of Corrections spokeswoman Nicole Wilson said Monday that the agency's investigation of the incident will include looking into why procedures weren't followed and how future incidents can be prevented.

A new measure would force people to get state IDs when they’re released from the Illinois Department of Corrections.

It took Deangelo Hampton two months to get an ID after he was released from prison.

“They talking about you can use your jail stuff to get state IDs, that’s just a lie,” Hampton said. “We went through a lot.”

The state doesn’t allow prisoners to use their release papers to prove their identity. Many former prisoners don’t have their birth certificate or social security card.

Flickr user Tim (Timothy) Pearce / "Prison cell with bed inside Alcatraz main building san francisco california" (CC BY 2.0)

A federal judge has granted class-action status to a lawsuit brought by deaf inmates alleging the Illinois Department of Corrections violates their civil rights.

The complaint, first filed in 2011, claims deaf and partially deaf prisoners have limited access to sign language interpreters, hearing aids and other accommodations.

Attorneys say the result is exclusion because the prisoners can't communicate. That means effectively missing religious services, court-mandated classes, medical visits and in some cases, emergency evacuations.

flickr user / Michael Coghlan "Prison Bars" (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The State of Illinois is suing a former prisoner for more than $100,000 to cover the cost of her own incarceration. 

In a lawsuit filed last week, the state puts the cost of Yolanda Fondren’s prison time for attempted armed violence at about $23,000 per year.

And it says they believe Fondren has a bank account with at least $200,000 in it.

Illinois’s prison watchdog, the John Howard Association, says the new leader of state prisons needs to increase transparency.

But prison reformers who worked with Gov. Bruce Rauner’s pick to lead the agency say openness isn’t John Baldwin's strong suit.

Baldwin led Iowa’s Department of Corrections before he was appointed in Illinois.

Johnie Hammond, a former state lawmaker who served two terms on the Iowa prison board, said she would give Baldwin "mixed reviews" in general but negative reviews on transparency.

New Illinois Department Of Corrections Head Named

Aug 17, 2015
Radio Iowa

John Baldwin is the new head of Illinois prisons.

Baldwin spent eight years as the head of the Iowa Department of Corrections before retiring in January.

Jean Basinger is the president of prison reform group Iowa CURE. She says she worked with Baldwin in Iowa.

"I certainly hope he can help with your problems in the system but I am concerned because of his lack of experience with such a big system," Basinger said.

There are more than five times as many prisoners in Illinois than in Iowa.

flickr user / Michael Coghlan "Prison Bars" (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A federal lawsuit alleges that the Illinois Department of Corrections use of solitary confinement is “cruel, inhumane and offensive to basic human decency.”

The complaint says about 23 hundred people in Illinois prisons are in solitary on any given day -- and that many of those people are there for very minor infractions.

Brian Nelson spent 23 years in solitary.

“I paced 18 hours every day, and they had to cut blood blisters off my feet,” Nelson said. “Consider an animal in the zoo-- we don’t put them in an environment like that.”

Flickr user miss_millions / " Prison cells" (CC v 2.0)

Criminal justice advocates say Illinois’s next prison chief needs to be dedicated to reducing the inmate population.

The Illinois Department of Corrections Director Donald Stolworthy resigned last week after just two months on the job. Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office is not saying why Stolworthy is leaving.

Ben Wolf is with the American Civil Liberties Union, which is involved in multiple lawsuits over Illinois prison conditions. He says the next prison chief should be an advocate for reform.

Flickr user Tim (Timothy) Pearce / "Prison cell with bed inside Alcatraz main building san francisco california" (CC BY 2.0)

  Illinois Department of Corrections officials say they still do not know when they will have enough beds to care for prisoners with mental illnesses.

The prison system has been in a legal battle over mental health care since 2007.

Late last year the state submitted a remedial plan to a federal judge, but prisoners suing say the department isn’t following it.

In a new court filing, the state says it still doesn’t know when all 12 hundred beds required will be added.

Jennifer Vollen Katz is with prison watchdog The John Howard Association.

flickr user / Michael Coghlan "Prison Bars" (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The new director of Illinois prisons says union contracts are the source of many problems within the state Department of Corrections. 

Prisons chief Donald Stolworthy wrote in a memo to Gov. Bruce Rauner that union contracts contribute to “many of the ills within the system.” That includes personnel costs and management qualifications. 

In documents, Stolworthy says overtime costs skyrocketed in recent years. Union spokesman Anders Lindall says overtime problems result from a lack of staff.

The Illinois Department of Corrections is still investigating how an inmate escaped from the Vandalia Correctional Center last week. Investigators talked with more than 100 people to determine how Marcus Battice broke out of the minimum-security facility.

Corrections spokesman Tom Shaer says that'll continue for a while; anyone in contact with Battice in the weeks leading up to his escape must be interviewed. The department has concluded it does NOT need to change what it does to prevent escapes.

Illinois prisons will soon offer video visitations for inmates. A watchdog says it could be beneficial. But it has concerns about how the trend is playing out in county jails.

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