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Surveys Reveal Troubling Conditions Inside Illinois Prisons

Anonymous surveys reveal broken infrastructure is a concern for people in Illinois correctional facilities. (fotokitas/Adobe Stock)
Anonymous surveys reveal broken infrastructure is a concern for people in Illinois correctional facilities. (fotokitas/Adobe Stock)
August 1, 2019

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The most recent surveys of living conditions inside some Illinois correctional facilities reveal some troubling findings.

The John Howard Association routinely visits prisons in the state to monitor conditions of confinement, policies and practices.

In the first half of the year, nearly 4,000 surveys were collected from people locked up in seven different prisons.

The organization’s executive director, Jennifer Vollen-Katz, says many of the state's correctional facilities were constructed decades if not centuries ago, and lack the resources needed to maintain structures of that age.

"There's issues with ventilation, with leaking, with rodents,” she points out. “We can see when we visit that things are just crumbling around people. That's a really unsafe and difficult way to live that just fuels the level of inhumane conditions that people are being subjected to."

The surveys were added to the data set from 2018, which now totals more than 13,000.

Seventy-five percent of respondents said broken infrastructure is not repaired in a timely matter; 66% reported inadequate ventilation and 62% indicated the temperature is uncomfortable.

Vollen-Katz says the Illinois Department of Corrections has not commented on the survey results.

Vollen-Katz explains that the surveys are completely anonymous, and also ask about medical care, mental health treatment and other areas related to well-being.

"If we are going to set people up for success upon release, we need to be thinking about how we are treating them and what kind of skills we are providing,” she states. “And right now, the conditions that people live in in Illinois prisons are terrible and there's simply not enough programming."

In 2018, the organization started staff surveys at the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice's five facilities. Of the 41 people who completed a survey, about half disagreed or strongly disagreed that the facility is in good state of repair, or that it is sanitary.

However, a majority said mental health and medical services are available to those incarcerated.

Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL