Illinois Department of Corrections

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.