[Ppnews] Illinois - Former Tamms Inmates on Hunger Strike

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Feb 6 10:31:00 EST 2013

  Former Tamms Inmates on Hunger Strike


Story Updated: Feb 5, 2013

PONTIAC -- Inmates moved out of the Tamms Correctional Center are taking 
a stand against conditions at their new location. Prisoners transferred 
to Pontiac in late December are now on a hunger strike.

The Department of Corrections confirms 47 inmates at Pontiac have 
declared a hunger strike, and staff are checking on the health of those 
prisoners. Some groups say the men are striking to protest the way 
they're being treated. Others believe it may just be the shock of moving 
from a small, specialized facility to a large, older prison.

"They are ex-Tamms prisoners being treated worse than everybody else at 
Pontiac," said Prison Rights Coordinator Brian Nelson with the Uptown 
People's Law Center. Staff at the Uptown People's Law Center in Chicago 
have received letter after letter from inmates about conditions at 
Pontiac Correctional Center. Those complaints include a lack of air 
circulation, no cleaning of the cells, and the sharing of nail clippers.

"The issue there is several of the men have Hepatitis C," said Nelson. 
"Others have HIV and communicable diseases." Former supermax inmates, 
used to the rewards for good behavior, are also finding that they can 
longer have a TV or radio.

"Some of the guys are saying it's worse here than in Tamms," said 
Nelson." At least in Tamms we could earn things." Earlier this week, 
those inmates began a hunger strike. It's an action that the law center 
says could lead to punishment.

"They don't take these decisions lightly," said Legal Director Alan 
Mills with the Uptown People's Law Center. "They are well aware of the 
risks." The Illinois Department of Corrections said in a statement 
Tuesday that they are taking steps to ensure inmate health, and the 
warden is interviewing each offender.

Former DOC Chief of Operations, Rick Bard, isn't surprised by the hunger 
strike. "They moved to a place that doesn't have climate control." said 
Bard. "It was built many, many years ago and was not a modern facility 
like Tamms."

The supermax facility was under a close watch for human rights 
violations. Bard believes the department took extra care in dealing with 
inmates. Tamms was also a much smaller prison. "They would have seen 
much more attention as far as the staff to inmate ratio," said 
Bard. Now, those inmates are in a large facility. They are also mixed in 
with prisoners that haven't had the same access to incentives found in 
the supermax program.

"That's where the administration is going to have to make some tough 
decisions on how they want to deal with that," said Bard. The Department 
of Corrections says it is strongly committed to a safe and healthy 

Officials with Law Center say they believe these inmates have a right to 
protest, and they hope the department and prisoners will work to address 
the concerns.

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