The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) was hit with a class action lawsuit Wednesday morning over its solitary confinement practices.
The Uptown People’s Law Center (UPLC) and Winston & Strawn LLP brought the case on behalf of “thousands of prisoners,” claiming that the Illinois prison system is excessively and inappropriately using the restrictive housing for inmates.
The Illinois prison system regularly has about 2,500 inmates in solitary confinement, many of whom are allegedly placed there for months at a time. Some Illinois inmates have spent decades in solitary confinement, UPLC says.
Prisoners can face solitary confinement for minor infractions, “such as rolling one’s eyes at a guard or in retaliation for helping other prisoners assert their legal rights,” according to an UPLC news release.
Each year, UPLC says 30,000 inmates are released from the Illinois prison system.
“Those who have been subjected to prolonged solitary confinement are often too traumatized to work and must collect Social Security income,” according to the legal group.
“The state of Illinois puts too many people into solitary, and for petty reasons,” said UPLC Executive Director Alan Mills. “The conditions there are appalling and unconstitutional, and we leave people in there for too long. Worst of all, Illinois’ excessive use of solitary doesn’t make our prisons safer, doesn’t protect staff, and does nothing to protect the public.”
When IDOC faced questions in early 2014 over solitary confinement and other prison conditions following a small inmate hunger strike at the Menard Correctional Center, an IDOC spokesman said at the time that state’s prison system does not practice solitary confinement. Inmates in “administrative detention” do receive time out of their cells for visitations, exercise, phone calls and other opportunities, although they have less access to those amenities than other prisoners, IDOC said last year.