Illinois Department of Corrections | St. Louis Public Radio

Illinois Department of Corrections

Lack Of Access, Long Waitlists: Education In Illinois Prisons

Mar 4, 2020
Seven men completed an entrepreneurship program at Hill Correctional Center last April. But waitlists to take classes like this are long and preference is given to those who have the shortest sentences. Feb. 2020
Lee V. Gaines | Illinois Newsroom

When Ralph Gray transferred from one prison in Illinois to another, he didn’t know the move would mean sacrificing access to an education. 

Gray guessed he was 16 credits shy of receiving an associate degree from Lake Land College, a community college that offers classes in several prisons in Illinois, when he left Western Illinois Correctional Center, a medium-security facility located between Springfield and Quincy. 

When he arrived at Graham Correctional Center in southern Illinois several years ago, Gray said he was told he’d be placed at the end of the waitlist for an auto body course. The class was the reason he requested a transfer. Gray said he's still on the waitlist. 

Concordance Academy of Leadership provides programming to previously incarcerated and incarcerated individuals that will assist with re-entering into society.
Concordance Academy of Leadership

Before being released from prison, Melvin Hill Jr. was doing everything in his power to secure a sustainable job that would allow him to fulfill his lifelong goals. 

Then a friend told him about the local nonprofit Concordance Academy of Leadership. Hill applied while he was still incarcerated. Last May, he was accepted into the program that supports reentry into society after prison.

Recently, the academy received $1 million to advance its mission of reducing recidivism in Missouri and Illinois with a holistic approach to reentry into society.

After a hearing at the Southern District of Illinois' U.S. District Court, a judge will determine whether the state of Illinois must begin changing its procedures for medically treating transgender prisoners. July 31, 2019.
Nick Telep | St. Louis Public Radio

A federal judge has ordered Illinois state prisons to immediately overhaul their policies for providing medical care to transgender inmates. 

Currently, according to the ruling, the Illinois Department of Corrections allows unqualified medical professionals to treat transgender patients; it also deprives them of medically necessary medications and accommodations. Prisoners named in the lawsuit testified that these practices jeopardized their health and drove them to harm themselves and attempt suicide. 

The ruling, handed down Thursday, requires the department to update its policies to be consistent with internationally accepted standards of care for medically treating gender dysphoria. 

Lawyers are asking a federal judge to hold the state of Illinois in contempt over the way it deals with mental illness in prisons.

Lance Pittman arrived at the Danville Correctional Center on Jan. 10 with multiple boxes of books, and bound printouts of articles and book chapters. Pittman coordinates a college in prison program called the Education Justice Project, which offers University of Illinois classes to a select group of men at the Danville prison. 

After a hearing at the Southern District of Illinois' U.S. District Court, a judge will determine whether the state of Illinois must begin changing its procedures for medically treating transgender prisoners. July 31, 2019.
Nick Telep | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 6:30 p.m., Aug. 1 with testimony from Illinois Department of Corrections officials — The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois wants a federal judge to order the state of Illinois to change its practices for providing medical treatment to transgender prisoners. 

Current policies fail to provide adequate health care to prisoners diagnosed with gender dysphoria, according to opening arguments made Wednesday by the ACLU in a federal court in East St. Louis. Illinois Department of Correction practices deny and delay medically necessary treatment for years, leading to “profound suffering” and increasing the risks of self-harm and suicide for transgender prisoners, the ACLU’s motion argues. 

The new director of the Illinois Department of Corrections said during a legislative hearing in Chicago on Monday that the agency plans to revise its policy regarding what books can and cannot enter the prison. 

Illinois lawmakers plan to ask state prison officials why more than 200 books were removed from a colle

Last week, Illinois Newsroom reported on 

The Illinois Department of Corrections continues to flounder in its efforts to care for inmates with mental illness, according to a new report authored by Dr. Pablo Stewart, a psychiatrist and court-appointed monitor on a 2016 settlement agreement on a class-action lawsuit.

(via Flickr/neil conway)

Reporting from WBEZ's Robert Wildeboer.

Last week, the Illinois Department of Corrections broke a rather unenviable record. On Tuesday, the department housed 49,172 inmates. The previous record was sent in Oct. 2011 when the population hit 49,135.

The population has been steadily rising since Ill. Gov. Pat Quin suspended an early release program in the middle of a heated primary election against Dan Hynes two years ago. Quinn recently signed into law a new early release program that should help bring down the number but it hasn't yet been implemented.

Morning headlines: Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Jul 31, 2012
(via Flickr/Indofunk Satish)

Good morning. Here are your headlines to start your Tuesday:

Illinois prison workers union: workers subject to coordinated shakedowns

A spokesman for the union representing Illinois prison workers now says staff at nearly all state facilities have been subject to coordinated shakedowns. A July 19 email obtained by the Associated Press seems to confirm those comments, saying a Department of Corrections administrator ordered wardens to at 10 prisons to conduct 'mass shakedowns' of staff as they left work last week. 

Commentary: When prisoners are mentally ill

Sep 27, 2009

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 27, 2009 - Michael Randle got it right. Prodded by inmate advocates and probing journalists, the state's new prisons chief acknowledged substantial mental health issues among more than a fifth of the nearly 240 convicts at the Super Max, a Dantean penitentiary planted in the secluded woods of deep southern Illinois to isolate the most incorrigible of the incarcerated.

Commentary: Correction policy trapped by fear

Jul 19, 2009

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 19, 2009 - When the Quinn administration began pondering whether to slash millions in prison payroll costs by prematurely releasing thousands of inmates, many politicians and citizens immediately saw red – and they were not looking at the ink on the state’s deficit-dominated ledgers.