Federal court and monitor to oversee overhaul of unconstitutional health care in Illinois prisons

CHICAGO – Just days before the opening of trial in Lippert v. Baldwin – a case challenging the inadequate and dismal quality of health care provided in Illinois prisons – the parties reached an agreement to resolve the case. The agreement, which is embodied in a consent decree and must be approved by the court, is the latest development in a case first filed as an individual complaint in 2010. As part of the decree, which was filed in court today, the State of Illinois has agreed to a court-approved monitor who will oversee a complete overhaul of the system for providing physical health care to some 40,000 state prisoners.  The State and the monitor will create a staffing plan for health care professionals in Illinois’ prisons, a plan that addresses the number of medical and dental professionals needed at these facilities, as well as an implementation plan for numerous other system-wide reforms.  The agreement contains specific, detailed professional qualifications for physicians and also calls for improvements to health care space and equipment, for new staff dedicated to oversight and infection control, for the implementation of an electronic medical record system, and for the development of a stringent quality assurance program, so that the system can identify and address problems in the delivery of health care before they cause problems for patients. In the course of pursuing this lawsuit, two court-appointed experts (reporting four years apart) found serious and profound problems in the health care provided in Illinois’ prisons. The most recent report – made public just last month – blamed the poor system for preventable deaths inside Illinois facilities.

Judge: “Deliberate Indifference” of IDOC mental health care requires federal oversight

CHICAGO — The federal court has found that the state of Illinois continues to violate the constitutional rights of more than 12,000 prisoners with mental illness. The finding comes even after the case had reached a settlement agreement in 2016, but the plaintiffs had to return to court when the IDOC failed to live up to its agreement and constitutional violations continued, according to the plaintiffs’ lead counsel, Harold Hirshman, senior counsel for Dentons. The court issued a 50-page decision finding that the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) has been deliberately indifferent to prisoners’ mental health, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. “It is clear mentally ill inmates continue to suffer as they wait for the IDOC to do what it said it was going to do,” Judge Mihm said. The court described the changes needed to IDOC’s mental health care as “monumental.”  (Order pg.

Lawsuit alleges discrimination, free speech violations with banning LGBTQ org in prison

CHICAGO – On Thursday, attorneys filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Chicago chapter of Black & Pink, a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide LGBTQ people in prison with allies on the outside. For over two years, Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) has censored communication between this organization and LGBTQ prisoners in Illinois. Attorneys from Uptown People’s Law Center (UPLC) and the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center filed the lawsuit, which alleges that IDOC has violated the First Amendment of the US Constitution by censoring Black & Pink mailings to individuals in at least eleven prisons. The lawsuit also alleges that IDOC has violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause (by failing to provide adequate notice or opportunity to challenge this persistent censorship), as well as the amendment’s equal protection clause. UPLC and the MacArthur Justice Center allege that the censored mail does not pose a threat to security or safety in the prison, but that IDOC is intentionally discriminating against Black & Pink based on the LGBTQ identities of its members and subscribers, and the organization’s position and promotion of criminal justice reform.