I was forwarded an email earlier this afternoon which purports to examine the “highlights” of 2017 legislation nationwide aimed at solitary confinement “reform.” Illinois was curiously missing from the list. Interesting story that I’ll lay out for your perusal to see how close to a lowlight the Illinois example is.
Condensing a lot of prefatory and background matters for brevity, for the last couple legislative sessions a bill to drastically limit solitary confinement in Illinois has been brought forward by Rep. LaShawn Ford, in consultation with a number of groups opposing solitary and mass incarceration more broadly.
One of the initial versions of said bill was primarily conceived and set in motion by a group in Illinois with next to zero connection to those currently in solitary in Illinois nor solitary survivors in Illinois. When a group of survivors became aware of this, including further details regarding said group bringing forth the bill preparing to cut a deal with Illinois sheriff’s to exclude them from the bill, among other unprincipled and opportunistic machinations, the solitary survivors had to step in and take over in order to stop unprincipled collusion with the State’s armed enforcers and to push the bill into a direction that those still behind the walls in solitary, their loved ones and other survivors could support. This bill, which was supported by many on the inside as well as survivors and other groups on the outside, was killed after one of the main collaborators with the Illinois Department of Correction, a supposed “watchdog” group, entered into a backroom campaign to kill the bill on the absurd and ridiculous basis that “Illinois prisons are already too overcrowded; how could they possible let people out of solitary when the have no room?” Patently absurd and morally reprehensible – to condone and collude with state representatives to stop a bill that would have drastically limited solitary in Illinois and ensuring the bill would not pass and therefore thousands of brothers and sisters would continue to be tortured by the state of Illinois in solitary confinement. This groups annual fundraiser was subsequently protested by a group of solitary survivors and others.
The bill was then re-entered in 2017. As the bill moved toward having the support to have it passed, an associate of the Stop Solitary Coalition of Illinois spoke to a lobbyist for the Illinois Sheriffs Association, informing the sheriff’s of the bills’ advance and possible passing. After being informed about the bill, the Illinois Sheriff Association then colluded with various Illinois political representatives to have the bill killed – and killed explicitly on the barbaric basis that the sheriff’s had a statewide policy and practice of using solitary confinement to torture the mentally ill under their “care.” This policy was openly laid out in an article from the Illinois Times, a piece of s̶h̶i̶t̶ “journalism” which failed entirely to mention the fact that solitary confinement in excess of 15 days is considered torture under international law, nor the fact that the mentally ill are the one specific class of people that the United States Supreme Court has stated cannot be placed in solitary – see Madrid v. Gomez, which held:
The Court did find that it would violate the Eighth Amendment to subject prisoners who already had serious mental illnesses to prolonged solitary confinement, because such prolonged social isolation was very likely to inflict serious psychological pain on that subclass of prisoners. (PROLONGED SOLITARY CONFINEMENT AND THE CONSTITUTION, by Jules Lobel, 2008, in Journal of Constitutional Law Vol. 11 Issue 1, online at http://scholarship.law.upenn.edu/jcl/vol11/iss1/6/
Apparently such trivial matters are beyond the scope of a piece of “journalism” on the topic of solitary confinement; all you need to do is parrot the false and criminal claims of the Illinois Sheriffs Association.
But, in brief, that is a short history of Illinois’ failed bill to drastically reduce solitary confinement. Sold out from its inception by a group with no ties to those in solitary confinement, their families and survivors, who wanted to cut a deal with sheriffs to allow them to continue torturing people in solitary confinement; then, after the bill was entered the first time, sold out by a phoney prison “watchdog” group, then by someone formerly incarcerated tipping off the Illinois Sheriffs Association.
So, apologies for the delay in getting this written, and other things, but we’ve been dealing with a number of things… Recently, we somewhat reluctantly spoke at the American College of Correctional Physicians national conference regarding solitary confinement. Brian Nelson, Monica Cosby, Afrika Lockett and myself as survivors made it clear we were there to let them know the real deal about the torture practice of solitary confinement.
Unfortunately I missed recording the beginning of Monica’s piece, but got most of the rest of the talk. Hard to do everything at once, without assistance… But we’ll keep doing it, cause no one else is. We’re currently raising funding to start our solitary confinement survivors group with Dr. Antonio Martinez.
Prison Liberation Collective