Stateville Correctional Center

Stateville Correctional Center


Stateville Correctional Center is a maximum-security prison that housed 1,213 adultmale inmates on the day of JHA’s monitoring visit. JHA collected 528 surveys from inmates (43.5% of the population) during our monitoring visit of this prison. Inmate responses to survey questions are reported below.

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Monitoring Reports

Executive Summary

The primary problems noted in JHA’s prior reports persist at Stateville’s maximum-security facility.2 Y et, as JHA ’ s 2011 report stated: “Stateville’ s biggest challenges—severe overcrowding, understaffing, a grossly deteriorating physical plant, lack of education and inmate programming, and lack of resources to address these issues—are squarely beyond the control of the facility’s staff and administration.”

The strain of continual overcrowding at NRC, where inmates regularly are sleeping in locations intended for other uses, directly impacts all of Stateville. In reviewing this draft in September 2013, IDOC officials stated that there had not been inmates sleeping in Stateville max’s nonstandard housing locations since July 2013. However, JHA spoke with staff who stated that there are still regularly 200 to 300 inmates sleeping in such locations at NRC. More precisely, as of September 20th, 2013, there were 100 inmates awaiting transfer to boot camp housed in a gym, 35 inmates on the floor in the NRC healthcare unit, 90 inmates on the floor in NRC staging, and three in the MSU on the floor. Staff also expected that there would be even more inmates on the floor the following week based on lack of transfers out. IDOC officials responded that this expected increase was speculation. Staff stated that inmates have been sleeping in the gym for the past two years and in the staging area for the past eight months. Since the time of JHA’s 2012 NRC monitoring visit, there are more than 100 additional inmates housed at Stateville. IDOC officials stated that they see the inmates housed in nonstandard areas in the NRC as a transient situation because the same inmates are not housed in nonstandard areas for extended periods.

Nonetheless, the sharing of physical space and staffing resources with the overcrowded NRC further reduces already limited opportunities for Stateville max inmates. Illinois’ prison population is aging and many Stateville max inmates are serving 20 years to life. As IDOC faces crowding throughout facilities, older inmates with long sentences, even those who have already served long terms and have had impeccable behavior, are unlikely to be transferred to other facilities that may be more suitable for their growing medical needs than a maximum-security environment.

Against this backdrop, this year Stateville administrators reported the greatest challenges for the facility remain accountability, fiscal resources, and staffing issues. JHA believes that the time for accountability for the crowding and physical plant crisis at Stateville is long overdue. For instance, Stateville has $84 million in deferred maintenance costs alone for the facility.

Additionally, Illinois must take accountability for the state of its correctional healthcare system. The United States Constitution’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment requires prison officials to provide adequate healthcare for inmates. In a positive step towards this goal, Illinois House Resolution 57 calls for the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) to audit the IDOC healthcare system in response to JHA’s recommendation for an independent entity audit. However, Stateville has immediate needs. At the time of the visit, Stateville staff reported difficulty obtaining basic supplies, while inmates file more medical grievances than any other category.

Stateville houses medical writ inmates from all IDOC facilities who are being sent out to outside Northern hospitals, and the max facility’s infirmary is also used to house infirmed NRC inmates who are just entering the IDOC system. These populations have greater than average medical needs. Further, IDOC remains reliant on paper medical records, which makes transmissions of information between facilities and with outside care more difficult.

JHA and IDOC agree that implementing an electronic medical record system is vitally important. However, although the program was intended to be implemented system-wide by now, there are continued delays. JHA has yet to see any capacity in even a pilot location, and healthcare staff at Stateville again noted the need for shelving for paper medical record storage. The latest report from IDOC officials is that electronic medical records are planned to be piloted at just the two female correctional centers this fall. Stateville administrators promised that needed shelving for paper records will be installed at their facility by the end of this year. JHA will continue to monitor and advocate for implementing planned medical records improvements.

This report addresses the following: Grievances, Healthcare, Living Conditions, Programming and Industry, and Staffing.

Executive Summary

The John Howard Association (JHA) visited Stateville Correctional Center (Stateville) on July 13, 2011. Stateville, a Level One maximum-security adult male facility, first opened in 1925. Stateville is located in Crest Hill, Illinois, about one hour southwest of Chicago. It contains 1,664 double-cells in six units which house general population, segregation, protective custody inmates and inmates on temporary court and medical writs awaiting transfer. Stateville is situated next to the Northern Reception and Classification Center (NRC), the major adult male intake and classification unit for the state of Illinois. In addition, NRC contains a minimum-security unit (MSU) that houses 344 inmates who perform jobs at NRC and Stateville. This report covers Stateville and MSU. NRC is addressed in a separate JHA report.

On the date of JHA’s visit, Stateville and NRC together housed 3,319 inmates, well over the combined rated-design capacity of 3,162 inmates. Of these, 1,596 inmates were housed in Stateville, approximately 163 percent over that facility’s rated capacity of 978 inmates. Since the time of JHA’s visit in July 2011, Stateville and NRC’s combined population has increased by roughly 400 more inmates.

The population at Stateville cannot continue to increase at such a rate without dire consequences. Stateville’s biggest challenges—severe overcrowding, understaffing, a grossly deteriorating physical plant, lack of education and inmate programming, and lack of resources to address these issues—are squarely beyond the control of the facility’s staff and administration. It is the responsibility of Illinois’ elected officials to find safe, cost-effective ways to reduce the state’s prison population.

The effects of overcrowding, underfunding, and understaffing were evident throughout the facility, but most dramatically on display in housing unit F, the panoptic “roundhouse,” which holds 400 inmates in double-bunk cells designed to house one person. The nearly 90-year old building, described in detail in the body of this report, has no place in a modern, civilized correctional system. Its grim conditions include persistent, noxious noise-levels; substandard heating, cooling and air ventilation; infestations of cockroaches and other pests; poor sanitation due to malfunctioning toilets, plumbing, and showers that are peeling and decaying; broken and non-functioning windows; and a physical plant that is overall dilapidated and falling apart. Because space is so limited and the roundhouse holds multiple populations of varying security levels that must be kept separate, orchestrating inmate movement can be very difficult for correctional staff. Until recently, some staff, in a misguided effort to be more efficient, adopted the appalling practice of showering two inmates at a time under one showerhead. On discovering this, the current administration acted decisively to put a stop to this practice. However, JHA received reports from some inmates that this still occasionally occurs.

Subjecting inmates to such harsh, dehumanizing conditions has an injurious impact on their safety and physical and mental well-being, and increases the likelihood of prison violence. It also undermines public safety and welfare, as recent studies show that harsh prison conditions do not improve inmates’ post-release behavior, but tend to increase the likelihood of recidivism.4 Further, poor prison conditions have a seriously deleterious impact on correctional staff who must work in this environment, greatly increasing their stress and workload pressure and making it more difficult for them to both monitor inmates and safely and effectively perform their jobs. 

Lack of adequate staffing, particularly medical and mental health staff, is also a major issue at Stateville. As detailed in the body of this report, Stateville is in desperate need of more physicians, psychiatrists, nurses and medical technicians to meet the health needs of a population that has a high incidence of serious mental and physical illness and is rapidly aging. In the face of insufficient medical staffing and resources, there is little question that inmates with serious health problems are suffering and going without adequate treatment at Stateville and facilities across the state.

As observed in prior JHA facility reports, this is a disaster in the making. Lack of adequate access to healthcare in Illinois prisons is not simply a humanitarian crisis. It is a public health crisis, as the failure to properly treat inmates with disease and illness endangers not only inmates and prison staff, but also the broader community to which inmates return when they are released. Ultimately, it is the public that bears the brunt when inmates with untreated infection and communicable disease are reintroduced into communities.

Executive Summary

Too many responsibilities, not enough resources.

On September 14, 2010, eight representatives of the John Howard Association of Illinois conducted a monitoring tour of Stateville Correctional Center. Opened in 1925, Stateville contains maximum-security, protective custody, and a medical unit. Stateville also serves as the Northern Reception and Classification Center for Cook and its collar counties. The Northern R&C is tasked with receiving inmates, assessing their risk status and health issues, transporting them to and from court if necessary, and ultimately sending them to an appropriate facility.

Marcus Hardy has been Warden of Stateville for almost one year. Warden Hardy has done a commendable job managing Stateville’s multiple functions and working to bring volunteers into Stateville to increase the facility’s limited educational and vocational opportunities. However, Warden Harvey’s efforts are often hamstrung by the fact that the prison is given too many responsibilities without adequate resources.

Survey Reports