2012 was one of the hottest summers on record in Illinois. Cellhouses throughout the Illinois prison system are poorly ventilated, and generally hold two men in spaces designed for one. When the outside temperature reaches 95—as it did repeatedly this summer, temperatures inside cells on upper tiers at Stateville Correctional Center, Menard Correctional Center, and Pontiac Correctional Center can reach 120 degrees and more. As was reported a month ago, prisoners have died from this heat.
In anticipation of this deadly heat, in June, prisoners were told they could buy extra fans. Many did. All fans are approved by the Department, and can only be purchased from the prison commissary, at a significant mark-up. Each purchased fan has an accompanying property contract and is considered to be the personal property of the purchasing inmate.
Then on July 17th, with no warning, the Department reversed course, and announced that it was confiscating all “extra” fans.
On August 22, 2012 the Uptown People’s Law Center filed a complaint in the Northern District of Illinois on behalf of two named prisoners, with the proposal of class action applicability. The complaint claims that the Department of Corrections illegally confiscated the inmates’ property without just compensation. They allege that this conduct is in direct conflict with multiple provisions of the United States Constitution, including the contract clause in Article 1, Section 10 and the 5th Amendment.
For further comment or to obtain a copy of the complaint and its accompanying exhibits please contact Alan Mills or Nicole Schult at 773-769-1411.