A group of mothers and sisters of inmates in an Illinois prison protested the conditions of the facility this week. Tamms Correctional Center in Chicago has been cited for inhumane treatment of its inmates, often locking them up for 24 hours a day with little or no breaks or interaction with others. Relatives were joined by past inmates of the prison and members of human rights advocacy groups for a press conference on Wednesday, following a legislative hearing on Governor Pat Quinn’s plan to close the facility in order to save the state millions of dollars.
Showing support for this plan, family members spoke out about the inhumane treatment of inmates in the prison. One mother described her son’s weight loss and slide into depression because of extreme isolation, while another spoke of her son’s daily routine in order to stay active and sane, which involves walking in circles for hours around his windowless concrete cell. Many of the inmates in Tamms also have mental illnesses, on which solitary confinement is shown to have particularly damaging effects. Tens of thousands of the 2.3 million people currently incarcerated are forced into long-term solitary confinement within the U.S. prison system.
Patrice Warren, whose brother has been incarcerated in Tamms for over 6 years, said, “A lot of them are committing suicide. I don’t want to lose my brother to the system like that.”
According to a 2009 study by the Belleville News-Democrat, 54 Tamms inmates have been in solitary confinement for more than 10 years. The American Civil Liberties Union has called solitary confinement “inconsistent with human rights principles” and is calling for the closing of the Tamms facility.
The state commission is expected to make a decision on the prison’s closure on May 11, though Quinn could close the facility regardless of its decision.