Illinois prisons

The number of Illinois inmates released on parole has increased as lawmakers look to reduce the prison population.

But funding to help parolees stay out of trouble has dropped dramatically because of the state budget crisis.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports the number of parolees has grown 14 percent in the past four years, to more than 28,000.

A federal lawsuit alleges that the Illinois Department of Corrections use of solitary confinement is “cruel, inhumane and offensive to basic human decency.”

The complaint says about 23 hundred people in Illinois prisons are in solitary on any given day -- and that many of those people are there for very minor infractions.

Brian Nelson spent 23 years in solitary.

“I paced 18 hours every day, and they had to cut blood blisters off my feet,” Nelson said. “Consider an animal in the zoo-- we don’t put them in an environment like that.”

Youth Solitary Confinement Is No More In Illinois

May 5, 2015

An attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union says solitary confinement for juveniles is essentially over in Illinois. 

A federal judge recently signed off on an agreement between the ACLU and the Department of Juvenile Justice. 

The agreement bans the use of solitary as punishment and requires all juveniles to get eight hours a day outside their cells.

  Illinois Department of Corrections officials say they still do not know when they will have enough beds to care for prisoners with mental illnesses.

The prison system has been in a legal battle over mental health care since 2007.

Late last year the state submitted a remedial plan to a federal judge, but prisoners suing say the department isn’t following it.

In a new court filing, the state says it still doesn’t know when all 12 hundred beds required will be added.

Not long ago, it seemed every time a different type of crime started making the news, members of the Illinois General Assembly would rush to increase the penalty for that offense. But today — with prisons stuffed beyond capacity and state finances ailing — lawmakers have begun taking a more deliberate approach. Brian Mackey reports on a criminal sentencing culture change in the Illinois General Assembly.

The panelists talk about attempts by Chicago Public Radio to report on conditions at two minimum security prisons in southern Illinois.