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Fight Over Closing of Illinois Supermax Ends 14 Years of Prisoners' Silence in Solitary Confinement

Society & Culture  (tags: abuse, activists, americans, corruption, crime, culture, dishonesty, education, ethics, freedoms, government, humans, murder, police, politics, rights, safety, society, violence )

- 2134 days ago -
The group, made up of former prisoners, prisoners' families, artists, writers, lawyers and others, believes that long-term solitary confinement is a form of torture punishment that should be curtailed, if not banned altogether.

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Kit B (276)
Thursday August 16, 2012, 12:14 pm
A man in Tamms made this drawing and others like it to communicate his despair from being in Tamms since 1998. (Image: Bear Cub)

Tamms Correctional Center on 200 Supermax Road, near the southern tip of Southern Illinois, may be as far from the hustling and bustling city of Chicago, with its constant city throb of noise, as you can get. And it's likely that no one can feel the difference as much as its inmates.

The only supermax facility in Illinois, meaning it is the only prison built to keep the majority of its prisoners in isolation, Tamms prison was consigned for closure by the state's governor in July.

But the battle between former prisoners, the families of those hurt by conditions at Tamms, anti-torture advocates, the union determined to keep its jobs and the state legislature struggling to contain costs continues to rage.

The story of Tamms is the story of something positive that may have come out of a recession, about what may be the last throes of the supermax movement, and what a campaign against torture accomplished in less than four years.

Behind the Walls of Tamms

The first supermax prison in the United States was the infamous Alcatraz, opened in 1934. Since then, tough-on-crime policies have led to the opening of more than 55 correctional facilities devoted, entirely or partly, to housing "the worst of the worst" across the country. This was the logic behind the opening of Tamms in 1998.

For the first ten years of its operation, the prison was mostly silent to the public ear. When the Tamms Year Ten campaign launched ten years after the prison was first opened, it became clear that much of the silence was due to the prolonged solitary confinement that most of its inmates were kept in for years.

"We wanted to create a set of demands around the crisis of isolation," said Laurie Jo Reynolds with the Tamms Year Ten campaign. "The prison was started with the concept of short-term isolation, but ten years later, no one had heard anything from inside Tamms."

The group, made up of former prisoners, prisoners' families, artists, writers, lawyers and others, believes that long-term solitary confinement is a form of torture punishment that should be curtailed, if not banned altogether.

By Yana Kunichoff and Jesse Menendez, Truthout and Vocalo | Report

Full article at Visit Site. Well written and very informative.

pam w (139)
Friday August 17, 2012, 11:58 am
In all honesty, there may be prisoners who deserve this kind of confinement....mass murderers, lifetime pederasts, etc.

BUT...interesting, isn't it? The brutality of the place wasn't enough to shut it down....but economics? Well, THAT'S DIFFERENT!

Yvonne White (229)
Friday August 17, 2012, 12:32 pm
The problem is that Torture is now National Policy - so why worry about Actually Convicted Criminals?? Mainly because they WILL get out when Illinois decides it's cheaper or when those convictions are over-turned..and we can can be sure they WILL be arrested again, because once you've been in Hell it doesn't scare you any more..:( So it Proves that Liberal "niceness" causes More Crime according to Reich-wingers: "Randle resigned following a scandal in which prisoners let out on an early-release initiative he championed re-offended soon after their release."
Goddess knows it CAN'T be that these Baddest of the Bads in the SuperMax are mostly in need of Mental Health programs to begin with! "...Illinois correctional facilities regularly hold inmates who are mentally ill and end up in prison or jail for lack of treatment facilities that could help them avoid punishment. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart called Cook County Jail "the largest mental health provider in the state of Illinois."


Kit B (276)
Friday August 17, 2012, 12:43 pm

Mental Health programs? Oh, I get it, Yvonne you're making a joke, we have no mental health programs. I have the same concern, most of these people will be released, mostly for economic reasons and some innocent people will pay the price of society being barbaric. There are better ways to treat even the worst of the worst, we must keep in mind that all that hate in an already messed up mind, just might be coming to a neighborhood near you.

Nancy C (806)
Friday August 17, 2012, 2:58 pm
I'd seen a panel a few years ago discussing mental health and treatment issues. They were basically a depressed group of professionals who had little to no voice in the world. They discussed avenues of thought (remember that) both traditional and fresh. Listening for hours, I realize now that because time is money, the effort to care for criminals who are mentally ill is swept under the rug. We should direct big pharma to these areas to get started. The holistic approach could follow in nuance once the $$ is there.

Past Member (0)
Saturday August 18, 2012, 5:23 am
Thank you.

Michael Barth (43)
Saturday August 18, 2012, 9:38 am

. (0)
Saturday August 18, 2012, 10:51 am
Economics rules all things from business to penal and religious establishments to all the dirty little depressions [recession is a msinomer created to soothe a frightened public]; and all the dirty global and local ethnic wars and conflicts. What do you do with all the repeat violent offenders such as the pederasts, rapists and serial killers. You put them into GenPop. Problem solved and the Economic gods love it as it is expedient in reducing costs and maintains short term maximum profit.

JL A (281)
Saturday August 18, 2012, 12:00 pm
60 Minutes did an expose on this at Pelican Bay in CA--and that evidence is part of what led the federal courts to take over health care in CA's prisons.

Lois Jordan (63)
Saturday August 18, 2012, 3:53 pm
Unfortunately, these "discussions" within states often lead to privatizing our disgusting Gov. here in AZ is shilling for. I agree that many, many prisoners are desperately in need of mental health provisions. This should be a no-brainer. The recent multiple shootings....Giffords, Aurora, the Sikh Temple....have MainStreamMedia blasting the info that the shooters are suffering from mental illness. While reading this, I recalled that Bradley Manning was subjected to similar conditions for several months. If this isn't torture, I don't know what is...

Mary Donnelly (47)
Saturday August 18, 2012, 6:13 pm
Thanks Kit--this kind of post needs more publicity.

wendy webber (28)
Saturday August 18, 2012, 10:50 pm
Well, well...I have worked in 6 different max 5 prisons as a sub. abuse counselor within a therapeutic community modality. We were in a housing unit all of our own for the treatment community.Over the yrs, I learned much more then I cared to about how/who runs prisons,solitary,mental health services, etc....I could (and might) write a book. Let me give you one fine example.....many of my clients had been diagnosed with Hep. C. Our treatment in-house community ran a yr to eighteen months for each client. Now, some of my clients were already very sick from the Hep C and needed treatment for that...badly.Many were looking like they were pregnant and were physically very ill...YET medical services would not treat the Hep C UNTIL the offender had successfully completed rehab and then they still had to wait on a list. After working in the system for some time, I realized that DOC was counting on them dying so they can save $$$$$$$, due to the absurd delay, as they struggled to complete rehab successfully. Mental health treatment??????????????that is as shoddy as anything else the offenders get.Often times, the attitude of those who work in prisons (myself excluded) is these are NOT people and because they are "offenders" they should feel lucky to get food (and that is equally scary)and water.In the prisons I worked in, a person could be thrown into solitary without knowing why...for a yr. An entire yr!!! The last prison I worked in had just moved to a brand new facility. There was squawk about turning that into a super max.....which was really about ego boosting the guards and admin...."I"m tough I work in a supermax and I get paid to do nothing all day"...leave the word "work" out of that previous sentence.Well, no need for that at all. It would just allow the guards to sit on their butts more, do nothing but push buttons rarely, and eat donuts and make fun of the inmates. Offenders in gen pop.are allowed out for an hr a day into an individualized "pen" that looks like a dog's chain link kennel. All they can do is pace or sit down in it. BUT.....after yrs of solitary and kennel confinement.....poor healthcare, little to zero mental health help,no trade or GED programs, no social or life skills building, NOTHING to get them ready to return to society.....DOC says, as they open the door, "hope you have learned your lesson"....and they are felons, so their number is already up...they are never done paying their dues to society....a felony record can come from many different directions...there is no continuum when it comes to how felonies are treated or felons for that matter. When I worked in these prisons and folks out in the world asked me what I did for work...They had nothing to say except...weren't you afraid to work with murderers and rapists etc?....(like those are the only offenses people go to prison for)...My reply......."I never know who is standing behind me in Walmart." So...the big picture is.....they come into prison with little but bad attitude, malfunctioning coping mechanisms, and street smart survival skills......and often (without any intervention like Drug rehab), etc......they are told that...... it is hoped that they learned their lesson...and for them to go now and do good.....DOC throws in a quarter for the bus ride home.Prisons have to be one of the darkest places on this planet. It feeds off of misery and pain.....

Kit B (276)
Sunday August 19, 2012, 11:23 am

Thank you Wendy, I hope every one reads your comment.

Kit B (276)
Sunday August 19, 2012, 11:24 am

Sending a Green Star is a simple way to say "Thank you"
You cannot currently send a star to wendy because you have done so within the last week.

marie C (163)
Sunday August 19, 2012, 2:50 pm
Thank you Kit Noted

Susan V (80)
Sunday August 19, 2012, 6:31 pm
Kit, thanks for this important story. I will never forget the prison model Michael Moore discusses as part of the bonus features on his film, "Sicko" -- he shows how a farm prison in Norway is treating even the most "hardened criminals" with compassion and respect -- No prison suits. No isolation -- no life or death sentences. They are given work in healthy environments.

I don't know why we can't learn from others.

And I am very concerned about the Juvenile detention for any minor infraction in schools - targeting children of color mostly-- and about the privatization of prisons, as well as the "prisons" that our mental hospitals have become. All tied in some way to the pharm industry causing massive brain damage (in my opinion) and the gov'ts corrupt "war on drugs."

I have some related petitions if anyone is interested -- may want to write one on this truthout story if there's not one already. Those in prisons, juvenile detention, and mental hospitals are the most forgotten in our society and the most exploited.

This one is closed but it explains how our school system is creating a pipeline to prison:


Kit B (276)
Sunday August 19, 2012, 7:25 pm

A pipeline to prison is most desirable when the prisons are a for profit system. Line 'em and grind those people down, then release them on an unsuspecting public. From all of this we construct a mental image of what makes a prisoner, rather than actually looking at or thinking about how we helped to mold and create people doomed to a life of incarceration.

Ellen G (0)
Sunday August 19, 2012, 7:45 pm
With our archaic laws such as those regarding marijuana our prisons are overflowing and costing this county an arm and a leg. Congress doesn't care, they are all being supported by those who wish to privatize the prison system which will lead to costing us more, giving prisoners sub standard care and treatment while the company itself makes a killing. Then they will find more ways to put people in prison to increase profit. We need to overturn this government I am sad to say. Doesn't make any difference what side of isle, they are all corrupt with the democrats being less so as they at least care somewhat about the rest of us. We need money out of politics and we need a new supreme court since that is corrupt as well. We also need laws that will force the media to report the truth rather then siding with corruption and being a megaphone for corrupt candidates. They need to be held responsible if they don't do their job.

Aletta Kraan (146)
Sunday August 19, 2012, 7:56 pm
Noted !

Devon Leonar (54)
Monday August 20, 2012, 1:04 am
Thanks Kit for posting this important story...I hope we can see more along these lines in the future. I feel the prison system needs reform very very badly. Man's inhumanity to each other can be starkly seen here. There are other ways. I can't stand this"for profit" in prisons...( or in hospitals either)
I have an old laptop and it's glitching, or I would write more.... but i want to thank you Kit again for your eagle eye in bringing us this story...and also thanks to Susan V and Wendy Webber for your super take on this subject.
We don't need sadists deciding what happens in prisons....

Barbara Tomlinson (431)
Monday August 20, 2012, 5:29 pm
Last sentence in the article:
For Reynolds, "the moral of the story is, it really does matter if a bunch of people band together and say, You can't do this."

And, this whole campaign started out with sending POETRY!
This story, while tragic, also ought to inspire more Activism....
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