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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Landmark settlement reached in Illinois class action on behalf of prisoners with mental illness

Equip for Equality is pleased to announce the legal team has reached a settlement on behalf of mentally ill prisoners in a class action against the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC).   Laura Miller, Amanda Antholt and Barry Taylor are the members of the legal team for Equip for Equality.  Our co-counsel partners are Uptown People’s Law Center and the law firms of Dentons and Mayer Brown.  

Highlights include:

·        For the first time ever, Illinois will provide both long-term and acute care for prisoners who are so seriously mentally ill that they require hospitalization. Previously, they were either relegated to solitary confinement, or left for months in “crisis cells,” where they were stripped of all possessions, left totally isolated from other prisoners, and watched 24 hours a day to ensure they do not commit suicide.
·        More than 300 new clinical staff will be hired to treat prisoners with serious mental illnesses, along with over 400 new security staff to work at the new residential treatment units. This will allow IDOC to provide group therapy and one-on-one therapy for prisoners, which was virtually unheard of previously.
·        The IDOC will construct four residential treatment units (at Logan, Pontiac, and Dixon Correctional Centers, and the now-closed Illinois Youth Center in Joliet). This will allow the release of many people currently held in long-term solitary confinement into more appropriate, treatment-oriented housing.
·        IDOC will review the mental health of all prisoners with more than 60 days left in solitary, to determine if they should be given early release. IDOC will also release from solitary all prisoners with serious mental illnesses who are confined there for minor, non-violent offenses, and in the future will consider mental health before sentencing someone to segregation.
·        Prisoners with mental illnesses who are in solitary confinement for over 60 days will have their out-of-cell time increased from less than an hour a day to 20 hours a week.
·        Construction costs for the new facilities are estimated to be $40 million and the new personnel costs are expected to be approximately $40 million annually. This spending will be a part of the appropriations process.
# As this was just announced 12/24/2015, we will update this post if more info becomes available.

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