Illinois prisoner human rights abuses ‘worse than California’
Using how a nation treats its prisoners as its moral barometer, American morality has reached rock bottom, according to a nightmarish class-action lawsuit filed by Illinois’ Vienna Correctional Center inmates earlier this month alleging human rights abuses worse human rights than California prison torture and that the Illinois Times described Thursday as “stomach-churning.”
“Prisoners find cockroaches in their coffee cups, drinking glasses and toothbrushes and feel cockroaches crawl across them while they lie in their bunks,” state the plaintiffs.
“The men often have to physically sweep cockroaches off of their mattresses and remove cockroach feces from their pillows and clothing.”
“We are worse than California,” says Alan Mills, legal director for Uptown People’s Law Center in Chicago that sued Illinois in federal court on June 13, according to Illinois Times. “California is putting people in gymnasiums. But, to my knowledge, they are not putting people into basements or storage rooms.”
With only five percent of the world’s population, the U.S. houses twenty-five percent of the world’s prisoners in its $50 billion a year industry, with California leading.
About six hours south of Chicago is a Level Six minimum-security adult male facility housing mostly low-level offenders, Vienna Correctional Center (Vienna).
Approximately 12 percent of Vienna’s population is 50 or older, each contributing to the lucrative prison-industrial complex approximately $20, 714., the average annual cost per Vienna inmate.
At Vienna, Illinois’ most overcrowded prison, inmates allege in their class-action lawsuit that they have 33 square feet or less of living space, “get three hours or less of exercise time each week, and much of their time is spent on bunks crammed 18 inches apart, so close that a prisoner can reach out and touch the person sleeping next to them,” according to Illinois Times that also reports:
“Rather than fix broken windows, the state has boarded them up, depriving inmates of natural light and fresh air. Mice, rats, millipedes, cockroaches and other vermin run free, and food contains rodent feces and mold, according to the plaintiffs.”
“To make matters worse, some of these toilets and sinks often do not function or drain properly due to leaking or clogged pipes,” the plaintiffs say. “Rust-colored water comes out of these few sinks, which the prisoners use to brush their teeth, wash their faces and ‘clean’ their dishes. Broken toilets are left filled with feces, sometimes for weeks.
“ Mold is rampant. It grows along the walls and ceilings, in the light fixtures, around the sinks and drinking fountains, in the showers and behind the toilets,” the plaintiffs say. “The mold on the ceiling and in the showers sometimes grows so thick that it breaks off and falls on the prisoners while they are sleeping in their bunks or showering.”
A 2011 report by the John Howard Association (JHA), a Chicago-based prison reform and watchdog group has confirmed the inhumane conditions at Vienna after visiting Vienna. (See: thejha.org/sites/default/files/Vienna_Report.pdf )
“The visitors smelled sewage and found inmates dodging rust-colored water that dripped from bathroom ceilings. Prisoners said they were given just five minutes to eat meals. Hundreds of inmates with nothing to do simply paced or huddled around a small television.”
The author of the JHA’s report includes, “A Vienna staff member seemed to recognize the stunned look on our faces. ‘This is a nightmare,’ he said quietly to one of JHA’s staff. ‘This should not be.’”
This week’s Supreme Court ruling that holds it unconstitutional to sentence any child under age 18 convicted of homicide to a mandatory life-without-parole sentence is historic, albeit only a drop in the United States prison human rights violations bucket and only a small step toward restorative justice.
America’s 100,000 tortured inmates is considered to be the nation’s most pressing and most ignored human rights violation.