Vigil for Reform at Tamms Supermax Prison in Southern Illinois

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approved by the Illinois legislature in 1998
as a short-term, one-year “shock-treatment”
program for men in other Illinois
prisons,who cause harm to guards or other
inmates. However, Tamms has become a
warehouse of human rights disasters.
Over one-third of the original prisoners
have been in Tamms in total solitary confinement
for the entire eleven years. They
leave the cell only to exercise
alone in a concrete box
two to five times per week.
They are fed through a slot
in the door. Suicide
attempts, self-mutilation,
and severe mental illness
are common at Tamms, an
unsurprising consequence
of the harsh punishment of
long-term isolation. The
mentally ill prisoners at
Tamms, whether their condition is caused
by solitary confinement or other illnesses,
often do not receive adequate treatment.
Rep. Julie Hamos of Evanston has proposed
House Bill 2263, also endorsed by
Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, which seeks to end
indefinite sentences of solitary confinement
at Tamms and establish clear criteria
for deciding who should be transferred
there. The bill will establish the following:
1. Prisoners can only be sent to Tamms
if they assault (or attempt to assault)
guards or other prisoners, escape
from custody, or otherwise seriously
disrupt prison operations.
2. Prisoners must be told why they are
being sent to Tamms and be given a
fair hearing.
3. Prisoners will not remain at Tamms
for more than one year, unless transferring
them back would endanger
the safety of staff or other prisoners.
4. Prisoners with a serious mental illness
will not be sent to Tamms.
Vigils for Reform at Tamms Supermax
Prison were held in a number of Illinois
communities on Thursday, July 16. The
Champaign-Urbana vigil was held outside
the First Mennonite Church in Urbana.
Large banners were raised at the corner of
Springfield and Lincoln avenues, designed
by Esther Portnoy of St. Andrew’s Lutheran
Church and beautifully colored by children
from the local Mosque. The banners
read: “Long-term Solitary Confinement Is
Prayers were said for improved treatment
of the prisoners, for the families of
the prisoners, and for the safety of the lawenforcement
officers; brief speeches were
made on the need for these reforms; and
the names of the 245 prisoners currently
incarcerated at Tamms were read aloud.
The spouse of one of the inmates at
Tamms was present with their two
To learn how you can become involved
in reform at Tamms Supermax, visit:

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