Federal court says evidence of constitution violations in state prisons

Image by Lisa Kennedy from Pixabay

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois has certified a class action suit against the Illinois Department of Corrections over solitary confinement.

Plaintiffs, represented by Uptown People’s Law Center and pro bono attorneys with Winston and Strawn, allege that conditions in solitary are horrific, that IDOC permits the use of solitary confinement for minor infractions, and uses lengthy, disproportionate stays, all of which constitute “cruel and unusual punishment” in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution.

Plaintiffs also alleged that prisoners are given no meaningful opportunity to present a defense, and sometimes are not even told why they are being sent to solitary, thereby violating the 14th Amendment by not complying with the minimum requirements of due process. 

The court said the plaintiffs had evidence to support the allegations and that the six named plaintiffs could represent all of the state’s prisoners in the class action suit.

“Illinois’ prison system locks up too many people, for too long, in horrific conditions. And as solitary confinement is prison within prison, it, too, is overused. The UN states that over 15 days of solitary is torture, yet sometimes people in Illinois spend decades there. And everyone who spends more than a couple of weeks ends up traumatized. We welcome the chance to finally expose these horrors in federal court,” said Alan Mills, attorney from Uptown People’s Law Center, in a press release.

Magistrate Mark Beatty said in the ruling that he found the conditions described by plaintiffs and their experts “disturbing, and quite frankly distressing.”

You can read the full ruling here.