Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tamms prison employees getting pink slips

Posted By on 05.22.12 at 03:04 PM

Pat Quinn
Downstate news sources are reporting that layoffs have begun at Tamms Correctional Center, the southern Illinois supermax prison, just a few months after Governor Pat Quinn announced plans to close the facility. Earlier this month a panel of lawmakers recommended to the governor that the prison stay open, and the loss of the 300-some jobs it provides would be a blow to the surrounding area, where unemployment is currently around 11 percent, according to the Herald & Review.

Quinn's plans received support from the prison watchdog group the John Howard Association, which cited the adverse effects that confinement at Tamms has on inmates' mental health. In a new report the JHA writes, "Most inmates spend 23 to 24 hours alone in their cells without social interaction, human contact, or sensory stimulation. This state of isolation can extend for months, years or indefinitely. Some Tamms inmates have spent more than a decade in this isolation . . . In observing, visiting, and communicating with Tamms inmates, JHA found evidence of inmates suffering deleterious effects to their mental and physical health related to long-term isolation."

"There are no vocational, educational, religious, leisure, or communal activities in any conventional sense" available to Tamms prisoners, the JHA noted. "We found multiple instances of inmates decompensating mentally and physically and engaging in acts of auto-aggression and self-mutilation. We found seriously mentally ill inmates housed in long-term isolation convicted of lower-level offenses who would be more accurately described as the 'sickest of the sick' rather than the 'worst of the worst.'" When Tamms closes, its 181 maximum-security prisoners will be transferred to the maximum-security facility at Pontiac Correctional Center.

Jeffrey Felshman wrote about the prison for the Reader in 2008.

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