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Federal Judge: Illinois Prisons Not Complying With Mental Healthcare Setlement

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Logan Correctional Facility

A federal judge has ruled the Illinois prison system is still providing inadequate mental healthcare to inmates and that the treatment qualifies as cruel and unusual punishment.

The ruling comes after attorneys representing inmates filed a claim last year with the court that the department was not following through on a settlement reached in 2016 to overhaul mental health treatment in Illinois prisons.

“The bottom line of everything we’ve brought on is that the department simply is not spending the resources it needs in order to comply with the agreement,” said Alan Mills, who is the executive director of the Uptown People’s Law Center. “According to testimony by federal court monitor, the lack of psychiatrists is the worst of the problems.”

A corrections spokeswoman said the department is committed to improving care and pointed to several accomplishments, including opening residential treatment units in Joliet, Logan and Dixon facilities and an in-patient treatment center in Elgin.

“These cases have been going for 12 to 15 years, so we’re paying for a lot of past sins,” said department director John Baldwin. “We want to have a system that provides adequate mental health care for our offenders.”

U.S. District Court Judge Michael Mihm will hold a hearing in May to determine what corrections needs to do to comply with the settlement.

State Rep. Rita Mayfield, a Waukegan Democrat, grilled corrections officials about the lawsuit and other issues at a budget hearing on Wednesday.

Mary Hansen is a former NPR Illinois reporter.
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