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*** UPDATED x3 *** Pritzker administration tries addressing IDOC criticisms

Wednesday, Jun 30, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Background is here if you need it. WBEZ

Lawmakers and advocates are calling for outside oversight of the Illinois Department of Corrections after a WBEZ investigation revealed a pattern of alleged beatings by guards in an area of Western Illinois Correctional Center where there was no video camera coverage.

The investigation documented nine people who separately accused a group of officers of beating them in the same area. Prison records show staff were aware of a blind spot that lacked cameras and of repeated accusations of violence, but the violence persisted until guards allegedly beat a prisoner named Larry Earvin to death in that same location. Federal prosecutors have charged three guards for the beating.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker has declined multiple requests to comment on WBEZ’s investigation or the repeated allegations of abuse. Pritzker’s silence continues a pattern in which his director of prisons has refused to do an interview about staff abuse and accountability despite requests over two-and-a-half years.

State Rep. Anne Stava-Murray said she was “horrified” by WBEZ’s findings. “The fact that somebody had to die before that was adequately taken care of, I think is atrocious,” Stava-Murray said. […]

“It’s not just how many cameras are there and where are they placed. It’s who’s reviewing the footage? How often is the footage being reviewed? Is it made publicly available? Is it being shared? Is it being reported?” Jennifer Vollen-Katz [the executive director of the John Howard Association] said.

* So, I checked in with Jordan Abudayyeh…

Protecting the safety of staff and individuals sentenced to IDOC custody is the highest priority of this administration. Under the leadership of Acting Director Rob Jeffreys, we have increased security measures statewide. These measures include, but are not limited to:

    • The installation of 79 new cameras at Western Illinois Correctional Center over the last year.

    • The institution of a unit management system at several facilities, including Western Illinois, to create greater contact between counselors, security staff, and people in custody. This approach increases opportunities for communication and improves the Department’s responsiveness to the concerns of incarcerated people.

    • The hiring of an attorney to serve as Chief Inspector. Chief Latoya Hughes is charged with providing oversight of the statewide grievance system and identifying needed reforms to ensure the process is fair, consistent, and responds to the needs of the incarcerated population.


*** UPDATE 1 *** I missed this one earlier in the week. Holy moly

Three Choate Mental Health administrators have been indicted on felony charges related to their work at the state-run facility. […]

All are accused of violating the Department of Human Services investigating protocol, his office stated in a news release.

Tripp alleges these violations started a chain of events that impeded an active investigation by Illinois State Police-Division of Internal Investigation of a staff member battering an individual served at the facility. Felony charges are pending in this case. […]

The indictments come after a string of other arrests last year tied to the institution. In all, eight current or former employees were arrested on charges connected to their employment at Choate.

*** UPDATE 2 *** Rep. Deb Conroy…

Rich, the Choate situation is a huge red flag to our state that we must prioritize mental Heath and SUD. This is absolutely unacceptable that the very inadequate facilities we do have are not safe. It is long overdue, but today I submitted language to require Illinois to have a Mental Health and SUD Czar. We are at a crossroad of crisis and opportunity with a moral responsibility to act.

…Adding… Sen. Fowler…

State Senator Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg) issued the following statement regarding the indictment charges:

“The abuse that came to light in 2018 at the Choate Mental Health facility was disturbing. To know that staff tasked with the care of some of the most vulnerable in our state were capable of such mistreatment was unsettling. Now we have three administrators, who should have worked to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the residents within this state-run facility and held their staff accountable for their actions, accused of misconduct and violating proper investigative protocol in regards to those abuse allegations. It is deplorable.

“As administrators, these individuals had a responsibility to protect those entrusted with their care. If it is proven that these officials ignored their duty and acted in any way to prevent justice for the residents harmed within Choate, they should be held accountable for their actions.

“Under the circumstance of the situation and with the seriousness of the charges, I urge the Administration to place all three individuals on administrative leave immediately.”

On June 28th, the Union County State’s Attorney announced that Bryant T. Davis, Teresa A. Smith and Gary K. Goins have all been charged with official misconduct, a Class 3 felony.

*** UPDATE 3 *** Sen. Bryant…

Three Choate Mental Health administrators are actively employed with the Illinois Department of Human Services despite being recently indicted on felony charges stemming from the abuse accusations of 2018 at the state-operated developmental center in Anna.

State Senator Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro), who serves as the Minority Spokesperson of the Senate Behavioral and Mental Health Committee, issued the following statement:

“It is unconscionable that the individuals charged with covering up and interfering with an investigation into the abuse of residents are continuing to actively work and have access to the staff and facility—the very facility in which they failed to properly protect the vulnerable residents under their care. It’s simply inexcusable.

“These individuals must immediately be put on administrative leave until these allegations are thoroughly investigated.

“As we’ve seen with the recent tragedy at the LaSalle Veterans Home, failure to take the appropriate steps necessary to ensure the safety of residents and our most vulnerable have serious consequences.”

On June 28th, the Union County State’s Attorney announced that Bryant T. Davis, Teresa A. Smith and Gary K. Goins have all been charged with official misconduct, a Class 3 felony.

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  1. - Excitable Boy - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 12:26 pm:

    Weak sauce. A big investigation of all IDOC facilities is in order, and some guards need to become inmates. And if our incarcerated population has dropped, WICC should be at the front of the chopping block.

  2. - Captain Obvious - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 12:44 pm:

    Now that our incompetence has been exposed, we have taken some corrective action that may or may not be effective. There, fixed it for you Jordan.

  3. - Candy Dogood - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 12:50 pm:

    Getting to a place where public employees don’t believe they’re entitled to beat and murder people on the job is a very important step in this process. None of these changes would get them there. In order to accomplish this, they might need to change entry level requirements, increase compensation, and provide a better work environment with support for guards in order to prevent them from falling into a Stanford Prison Experiment trap that leaves them as traumatized as their victims.

  4. - Dan Johnson - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 12:53 pm:

    This is an opportunity to centralize authority at IDOC. For decades IDOC facilities have had far too much autonomy. It’s time for a more modern, transparent, *centralized* administration for staff and inmate punishments, procedures and policies.

  5. - WLDS News - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 12:57 pm:

    Ms. Abbudayyeh’s response is the same response that Lindsey Hess, PIO of IDOC provided to us a few weeks ago in regards to Mr. Earvin’s case. IDOC is also not talking about no charges being filed in the strangulation death of Earl Little at Pinckneyville prison.
    Not to mention the lack of transparency on an outbreak that occurred at the Jacksonville Prison in the early days of the COVID response last year. The pattern of cooperation with public information at IDOC has been troubling to say the least.

  6. - Candy Dogood - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 12:59 pm:

    Dan Johnson raises a very good point and it is a reform that can likely be achieved within a term as a governor without much change to the budget.

  7. - Responsa - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 1:01 pm:

    I am starting to feel sorry for Jordan. Expecting her to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear day after day to cover for ineptitude in and out of various agencies is hard to do–and she is not succeeding in many cases.

  8. - Annie - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 1:09 pm:

    The Prisoners’ Rights listserv reports that IDOC has hired an outsider, Eugene Jackson, as the new head of criminal investigations. He is a well-regarded former FBI agent from its Office of Civil Rights.

  9. - Joe Bidenopolous - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 1:18 pm:

    My thoughts? I read the WBEZ article. And that response is not nearly adequate enough

  10. - Payback - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 1:40 pm:

    “It’s who’s reviewing the footage?” Rep. Stava-Murray’s question here is key to the effectiveness of ALL video evidence concerning the conduct of any public employees, be they prison staff or cops.

    I had the same question about the SAFE-T bill body cam language. What good are the cams if supervisors from the same agency are the ones responsible for securing the video footage? Answer: Little to none, there are no checks and balances.

  11. - Disappointed Voter - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 1:42 pm:

    This is only the beginning. Truly horrible things are happening to people under the care of the DOC that aren’t yet reported on. This is going to blow up in the governor’s face.

  12. - Give Me A Break - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 1:53 pm:

    As long as Illinois continues to try and operate a two tier system of MH care (state ran hospitals) and community based system of care, both types will suffer.

    You can’t say you are committed to a quality system of MH care when you short both sides of the system to keep the union happy by refusing to close out-of-date hospitals that drain public funds that would be better spent funding a community based system of care.

    At one time, Illinois operated 22 state hospitals for the mentally ill. Six are left including Choate that is a dual use hospital.

    Long past the time Illinois decides to be one thing or the other but trying to be both is not helping MH care anywhere.

  13. - Fed Up - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 2:10 pm:

    Give me a break: you hit on the head. We cannot continue to TALK about community based care and the priorities to get people community based options while still maintaining out of date institutions. The people locked up and abused in our SODCs only committed the crime of having a disability. It is one civil rights violation after another. Top brass in the gov’s office talks a good game about diversity, equity, and inclusion yet leave the thousand plus in these facilities as an afterthought.

  14. - Big Jer - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 2:26 pm:

    ===I submitted language to require Illinois to have a Mental Health and SUD Czar===

    Sure, like appointing a “Czar” always fixes everything. My response to Rep. Conroy would be the same as Captain Obvious excellent comment was to Jordan Abudayyeh.

    Some really good comments on this post.

    ===As long as Illinois continues to try and operate a two tier system of MH care (state ran hospitals) and community based system of care===

    I do not know how much is in Illinois control and is not. I think both are the victim of unfunded federal mandates. Back in the 80’s President Carter and especially President Reagan began the process of closing mental health hospitals in favor of community mental health. Unfortunately the community mental health idea has never been well funded.

  15. - tobor - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 2:50 pm:

    What,”Payback”, said.

  16. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 4:12 pm:

    ===The indictments come after a string of other arrests last year tied to the institution. In all, eight current or former employees were arrested on charges connected to their employment at Choate.===

    Wholly unacceptable and legislative oversight to hear what’s going on is now needed.

  17. - OneMan - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 4:17 pm:

    Don’t really understand how you can be charged with a felony related to your job and still be on duty. That these folks are not on administrative leave seems, well, daft.

    Even if they end up on administrative leave at the end of the day, someone should explain why it didn’t happen sooner.

  18. - Anyone Remember - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 6:40 pm:

    === … despite being recently indicted on felony charges stemming from the abuse accusations of 2018 … .===

    2018? Hired by Rauner? Quinn? Blago? Ryan? Edgar? Thompson?

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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