Illinois Department of Corrections

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.

wbez

Illinois prisons are expanding a program to feed some inmates two meals a day instead of three.