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*** UPDATED x1 *** Mentally ill prisoners subjected to medieval “treatment”

Thursday, Dec 21, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Bruce Rushton

The inmate was mumbling. Shaking. Clearly in a psychotic state and whispering about a black hole.

The black hole had already demanded, and received, his blood once, the inmate told Dr. Pablo Stewart, a psychiatrist who visited Pontiac Correctional Center last fall to determine whether the state was abiding by a settlement agreement crafted to improve care for mentally ill inmates. Now, the inmate told Stewart, the hole wanted more blood. Stewart says that he turned from court-appointed monitor to clinician, attempting convince the inmate that the black hole wasn’t real.

After a few minutes, the inmate was returned to his segregation cell, where mentally ill inmates who misbehave spend as many as 23 hours a day locked up alone, Stewart testified this week in U.S. District Court in Peoria. It could be worse. Inmates deemed seriously suicidal are sent to crisis cells where they are restrained to beds without mattresses, legs spread and shackled down, Stewart testified, their arms shackled and extended above their heads, as if stretched out on medieval torture racks.

“You get cramps and charley horses,” said Corrie Singleton, a Pontiac inmate who testified that he’s been so restrained seven or eight times for as long as 72 hours at a stretch since September. Once every two hours, guards loosen restraints, one limb at time, for eight minutes, Singleton said. He always picks his left arm. His right arm, Singleton explained, is dislocated, and so it is strapped down near his side instead of pinned down over his head, next to his left arm.

Testifying telephonically and fresh from a straitjacket, Singleton said Tuesday that he has been on suicide watch for six days after swallowing batteries. He had been allowed a shower and a chance to brush his teeth just once during that time, he testified in a flat voice, blinking little as he stared into the camera. He said he last had a one-on-one session with a mental health counselor in September. […]

Singleton is the face of a mental health disaster in Illinois prisons, according to attorneys for inmates who’ve been battling in court since 2007, attempting to force improvements. Inmates in 2015 agreed to abandon a consent decree, hoping that Gov. Bruce Rauner’s offer to settle the case without a decree would result in faster change. That, according to the plaintiffs, hasn’t happened, and so they’re back in court hoping for a judicial order to enforce the settlement agreement.

An inmate identified only as Tyler committed suicide in October after unsuccessful attempts in April and July that resulted in no significant change to his written treatment plans, which contained no mention that he had attempted to take his own life, according to Stewart’s testimony and court exhibits. Entire pages of the treatment plan form describing Tyler’s condition and what should be done to help him were left blank, and that’s typical, Stewart testified.

“This isn’t an outlier,” testified the doctor, who told the court that treatment plans routinely contain boilerplate language that doesn’t change from inmate to inmate.

Approximately 900 of the 1,100 inmates in segregation in state prisons are mentally ill, according to court records. Mental health professionals who check on mentally ill inmates must shout at them through small openings in cell doors that preclude inmates and those who are supposed to help them from seeing each other, Stewart testified. It’s a vicious cycle, with segregation cells making sick inmates even sicker, which prompts more misbehavior, which results in more segregation time. They cut themselves and smear their bodies with feces. The state last spring began giving mentally ill inmates more time out of segregation cells by shackling them to chairs in front of big-screen televisions that show movies, which Stewart acknowledged is progress.

Go read the rest.

*** UPDATE *** IDOC director John Baldwin…

The Illinois Department of Corrections has taken considerable steps to enhance the delivery of care for offenders who are on the mental health caseload. The Department remains focused on fully complying with the terms of the Rasho v Baldwin settlement agreement. It should be pointed out that, at a recent hearing, Dr. Melvin Hinton was called as an adverse witness. The vast majority of the questions he was asked required “Yes” or “No” answers. In other words, there were very few opportunities for him to explain the many accomplishments the Department has made in the 18 months since the Agreement was signed. It is important for the public to know the following:

    · While recruiting qualified mental health professionals has been a challenge, the Department has added hundreds of new staff members since 2015 to address the mental health needs of its offenders.
    · Department staff continues to receive ongoing training, including National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) training and Verbal Judo, which equips them with the knowledge to deescalate situations and meet the unique needs of its mentally ill population.
    · The Department has reduced segregation time by 44% since 2015 and has drastically increased out of cell time for offenders who are housed in segregation.
    · The Department has implemented additional programming for offenders who are on the mental health caseload.
    · Currently, there are seriously mentally ill residents receiving residential treatment level services at Joliet Treatment Center and the residential treatment units at Logan and Dixon Correctional Centers.
    · Additionally, the IDOC enlisted the services of an engineering firm to develop a state-of-the-art, 200 bed mental health and general medicine treatment unit for seriously mentally ill offenders.

The safety of our staff, the offenders in our custody, and the public are our top priority. The Department continues to make adjustments in its day to day operations that balance safety, security, and the needs of our mentally ill population. The Department remains committed to ensuring that mentally ill men and women receive the treatment that is essential to their wellbeing, rehabilitation and reentry into society.


  1. - Iggy - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 9:37 am:

    What should have happened when democrats had control of house senate and govs office.

    1. reform criminal justice laws (the ones that disproportionately impact the African American community, the same community that loyally votes for the democrat party)
    2. Appropriate money on the front end for mental health

    What actually happened:
    Blago shuts down new fully functioning prisons appoints school teachers to be wardens. Quinn sweeps the problem under the rug for his entire term. Gov. Rauner gets the blame.

  2. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 9:40 am:

    ===Gov. Rauner gets the blame.===

    Rauner is the victim. Oh boy.

    Rauner vetoed DOC funding. Rauner has yet to have a budget to address these issues.

    These are Rauner choices.

    Keep up.

  3. - Milkman - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 9:41 am:

    They closed all of the states mental institutions and they are surprised this is the result???

  4. - Iggy - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 9:51 am:

    =These are Rauner choices.=

    and yet no choices were made for a good solid decade to do anything to improve criminal justice within this state. You know what was shameful, the clemency petition backlog that Rauner inherited. so many people just wanted a chance for their case to be reviewed, and fearing being weak on crime, Blago and Quinn ignored these people, just like they ignored the problem of addressing the growing number of SMI (seriously mentally Ill) inmates.

    we are where we are today because of decisions made by previous administrations.

  5. - Jimk849 - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 10:06 am:

    Politics aside this is a sad situation. Maybe someone like Lisa Madigan or her replacement could get in court and sue to insure there are funds to properly diagnose and treat these sick inmates. This kind of treatment probably would not even be tolerated in Gitmo IMHO.

  6. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 10:08 am:

    - Iggy -

    How many budgets did Rauner sign?

    How much money and resources, these past three years has Rauner’s Administration put forth here?


    Budgets are the instruments of policy.

    Rauner chose not to engage in things that are weighed and measured by budgetary numbers and plans within.

    Your “protection” of Rauner’s ignoring things like this purposeful pain, you keep blaming other.

    It’s been 3 years.

    Where is the signed budget for Rauner’s agency to do what needs to be done?

  7. - Annonin' - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 10:11 am:

    we think GovJunk has his own shiny court ordered consent decree to mandate these services. He caught the end of a Quinn suit.

  8. - Fixer - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 10:15 am:

    My issue with this is that the one who do need the serious treatment are being lost in the mass of those who are claiming SMI in order to gain what they see as “perks” those in need are receiving.

    Yes, there are issues with segregation policies, but what is the best solution to take when a weapon is made by an inmate or an inmate attacks staff/other inmates? Everyone wants this to be a quick, clean fix. It isn’t ever going to be that simple.

  9. - Iggy - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 10:18 am:


    I think I can confidently say this Governor cares about IDOC and cares about giving the agency the tools it needs to operate. I agree with you, a lack of a state budget hurt IDOC and it hurt every other state agency. but thankfully during a time of chaos and no budget IDOC had amazing staff that managed so much with so little resources. I am not disagreeing with your premise that a governor needs to sign budgets to give tools to agencies to operate. However my unaddressed point stands correct, previous administrations left IDOC in a place that is beyond repair. a fully funded state budget for 3 years would not have changed what damage had already occurred.

  10. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 10:21 am:

    ===I think I can confidently say this Governor cares about IDOC and cares about giving the agency the tools it needs to operate.===

    Rauner’s purposeful vetoes to leverage a destruction of labor says otherwise.

    Good try. No.

  11. - Langhorne - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 10:22 am:

    Bruce, IANIC, and refusing to acknowledge moral resposibility for…..(insert problem)

    Please explain how speaker madigan caused these problems, or kept you from demanding an immediate effective response.

  12. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 10:24 am:

    I wanted this utter ignorance to stand alone…

    ===a fully funded state budget for 3 years would not have changed what damage had already occurred.===

    Think what you just wrote.

    It’s the same, having no budget, and having a budget, to address concerns.

    Having no budget… is exactly the same of having a budget…

    Do you have any clue what budgets… do?

  13. - Promises - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 10:26 am:

    =left IDOC in a place that is beyond repair.=

    Did Rauner campaign on eliminating or writing-off IDOC?
    Is he campaigning on this now?

  14. - SSL - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 10:29 am:

    Pretty horrific example of a badly managed state. Plenty of blame to go around on this one.

    The needs of the mentally ill are many, and costly. While there are other issues that are critically important, this one is at the top of the list.

    You want to raise my taxes to address this difficult problem, go ahead. Sadly, this won’t get addressed due to the badly mismanaged public pension fiasco, which eats up all the money the state can take in.

    There are many people with blood on their hands.

  15. - Jack Kemp - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 10:32 am:

    Willy, if you would get over your mindless shilling for 15 seconds and just sincerely try to understand what somebody else is saying for a second, I think you’d understand that what Iggy is talking about doesn’t really have much to do at all with the budget.

    I won’t hold my breath.

  16. - Chris Widger - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 10:35 am:

    ==Good try.==

    This doesn’t seem earnest.

  17. - Perrid - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 10:40 am:

    @Jack Kemp, Yes it does. If Rauner saw this as a problem and wanted to change it it will require spending. More mental health professionals, more guards to oversee the prisoners so they don’t have to be shackled for quite as long, plus a lot more to actually improve the situation. Rauner chose not to create those programs, or appropriate more (or any) money to help fix this issue, and seemingly refused to abide by the settlement agreement that he entered the state into. He didn’t create the problem but he did nothing to try and fix it. Heck, by making promises he didn’t even bother trying to keep he made it worse by prolonging the suffering.

  18. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 10:40 am:

    ===I think you’d understand that what Iggy is talking about doesn’t really have much to do at all with the budget===

    Everything in state government at some point has the “what will it cost” in a budget.

    Rauner chose, Rauner made a point, actually, that purposeful created crisis was part of the game plan.

    Not having budgets for 3 years, and thank goodness the Bipartisan GA stepped in to get a budget for this third year, is Rauner hurting programs, infrastructure, people… just like here.

    Governors own these choices.

    If budgets weren’t that big of a deal, why was it so important that the override to get a budget was needed?

  19. - Earnest - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 10:52 am:

    >Inmates in 2015 agreed to abandon a consent decree,

    Major mistake. For the most part, improvements in the Illinois human services system come from either legal pressure (DCFS, Ligas, etc.) or political pressure and leadership ().

  20. - Jack Kemp - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 10:56 am:

    You’re arguing against a point that nobody made. You talk to hear yourself talk.

  21. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 10:59 am:

    ===You’re arguing against a point that nobody made. ===

    Nope. Keep up…

    Rauner isn’t at fault, but Rauner has no budgets for 3 years to address it… Rauner is the Governor now and is responsible for the past 3 years. Rauner just chose not to have an signed IDOC budget. Rauner is responsible for today.


  22. - anon2 - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 11:15 am:

    === the clemency petition backlog that Rauner inherited. Blago and Quinn ignored these people.===

    Here’s a headline from the Trib on Jan. 9, 2014: “In last days as governor, Quinn grants clemency to 232 petitioners.” The article states, :After inheriting a backlog of more than 2,800 requests that now-imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich took no action on during his tenure, Quinn has acted on 4,766 clemency petitions, more than any other Illinois governor, according to his administration.”

    Let’s correct the record.

  23. - crazybleedingheart - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 11:23 am:

    Yes, read the federal court testimony.

    Then read questions 8 and 9 in this survey of prison guards concerning the sufficiency of medical and mental health care at Pontiac.

    The fish rots from the head. Leadership matters. But there is also a serious culture of cruelty in the IL Department of Corrections that has been adopted all the way to the roots.

  24. - crazybleedingheart - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 11:23 am:

    stuck in spam

  25. - NorthsideNoMore - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 12:15 pm:

    So those that advocated decades ago to move mentally ill into less restrictive environments need to wear some of this too. The closure of places like tinley park could have housed some of these people to get the treatment they need even if the crimes they committed would otherwise put them in prison. Can’t blame the Gov for everything these are issues that have been festering for 20 years or more.

  26. - Nick Name - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 12:32 pm:

    “What actually happened:
    Blago shuts down new fully functioning prisons appoints school teachers to be wardens. Quinn sweeps the problem under the rug for his entire term. Gov. Rauner gets the blame because not only did he do absolutely nothing to fix it, he made it worse by vetoing each and every annual budget sent to him.”

    Fixed it for you.

  27. - Anon221 - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 12:33 pm:

    From the IT article-

    But Melvin Hinton, a psychologist who is IDOC’s chief of mental health, acknowledged serious issues, including his own lack of knowledge.

    “Even though you’re the head of mental health, you don’t know the budget for mental health?” asked Harold Hirshman, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

    “Correct,” Hinton answered.

    “Do you think it’s important for you to do your job to know how much is being spent?” Hirshman queried.

    “Yes,” Hinton responded.

    “But you don’t have that information?” Hirshman asked.

    “They don’t give me that information,” Hinton said.

    I don’t think “they” is the ILGA or Madigan if you want to be “Rauner-specific”. “They” are the same Agency heads who would not list any cuts to make during the budget hearings. And, “They” answer to Rauner, no to Madigan.

  28. - NeverPoliticallyCorrect - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 12:48 pm:

    OK, all you RDS victims, yes Rauner didn’t fix the issue but the decades of decay are what has created the mental health crisis in Illinois. And the largest part of that blame must be laid at the door of the General Assembly. They has consistently and continually under appropriated resources for the mentally ill. Yes, Rauner is “in charge” now but this ship was going down long before he got into the captains chair. And that’s the fact.

  29. - Fixer - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 1:05 pm:

    So in order to correct this faults of previous GAs, Never PC, would you rather raise taxes or cut from the budget? Because Baldwin couldn’t name a single cut.

  30. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 1:09 pm:

    ===yes Rauner didn’t fix the issue===

    Thanks. Next!

  31. - crazybleedingheart - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 1:34 pm:

    ==So those that advocated decades ago to move mentally ill into less restrictive environments need to wear some of this too.==


  32. - Last Bull Moose - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 2:45 pm:

    Some of those incarcerated would have been detained at Mental Health Facilities years ago. These are often people who could function if they took their meds, but don’t.

    Can we reach a compromise where these people are sent to Mental Health Facilities instead of prisons? That is after conviction so we don’t violate their civil rights.

  33. - crazybleedingheart - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 2:57 pm:

    Your compromise is to institutionalize people who are functional on medication?

  34. - Last Bull Moose - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 3:16 pm:

    After they have been convicted.
    Which institution do you prefer?

  35. - Last Bull Moose - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 3:31 pm:

    Today we are not able to ensure that people take their medications. Nor can we ensure that alcoholics don’t drive drunk. Our solution is to wait till they are caught breaking the law and then put them in prison.

    I would like to do better.

  36. - wordslinger - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 6:34 pm:

    –Inmates in 2015 agreed to abandon a consent decree, hoping that Gov. Bruce Rauner’s offer to settle the case without a decree would result in faster change. That, according to the plaintiffs, hasn’t happened, and so they’re back in court hoping for a judicial order to enforce the settlement agreement.–

    I can’t imagine what in Rauner’s track record made those lawyers believe they could trust his word.

    Ain’t just me. Ask around. Anyone, anywhere, on the spectrum. Radogno, Cupich, Ives……..

  37. - Facts - Friday, Dec 22, 17 @ 11:44 am:

    Just a factual point; Blagojavich didn’t shut down any prisons. Quinn shut down Tamms and Rauner closed Dwight.

  38. - Facts - Friday, Dec 22, 17 @ 11:46 am:

    Thomson was never open… only the work camp.

  39. - Anonymous - Friday, Dec 22, 17 @ 11:55 am:

    Oh facts here stands corrected. Quin shutdown Dwight, not Rauner.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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