Former Prisoners, Psychological Experts Testify about Frequent Suicide Attempts, Self Mutilation and High Rates of Mental Illness at Tamms Prison 10 Years after Opening
What: The Illinois House of Representatives Committee on Prison Reform will hold a hearing today in Chicago to review the current conditions at Tamms Supermax Prison--a "supermaximum security" prison in southern Illinois where prisoners are sent for extra punishment. The prison was intended for short-term incarceration (1-2 years) during which time prisoners are in permanent solitary confinement. However, 88 men have been at Tamms since the prison opened 10 years ago and are being held indefinitely.
At the hearing, former Tamms' prisoners, psychological experts, family members of current prisoners, and attorneys who have represented Tamms' detainees will testify about the detrimental effects of prolonged solitary confinement and the behavior that often results including suicide attempts, self mutilation and severe mental illness.
When/Where: TODAY, April 28, 2008, 9:30 am
9:30 am: Press conference, in front of Thompson Center
On the plaza, 100 W. Randolph, corner of Randolph and Clark
**In case of rain, press conference will be in Hearing Room 2-025
10:00 am: Hearing, Illinois House Prison Reform Committee
The Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph, Room 2-025
Who: Dr. Terry Kupers, psychiatrist and professor, expert on psychological
effects of Tamms and other supermax prisons on inmates
Reginald Akkeem Berry, former Tamms' prisoner
IL Rep. Eddie Washington (60th District), chair of Prison Reform Committee
IL Senator Rickey Hendon (5th District)
Mary L. Johnson, mother of inmate who has been at Tamms for 10 years
Jean Maclean Snyder, attorney, represented mentally ill prisoners at Tamms in prior lawsuit
Locke Bowman, MacArthur Justice Center, represented mentally ill prisoners at Tamms in prior lawsuit
Visual: 9:00 am, On the plaza in front of the Thompson Center, former Tamms' inmates and prisoners' family members will chalk off every day that Tamms has been open (more than 3600 days) on a giant black banner to highlight how long some inmates have been in permanent isolation.
Why: Supermax prisons like Tamms have been criticized nationally and internationally for the prolonged isolation of prisoners and the range of mental and physical problems that often result when people are placed in permanent solitary confinement for years with little to no human contact. At Tamms, prisoners are confined to their cells 23-24 hours per day, food is served in the cell, there are no programs or activities, phone calls are prohibited, and prisoners often hear nothing but constant screaming or banging.
Dr. Kupers, who will be testifying at the hearing, writes, "It is in this context of near- total isolation and idleness that psychiatric symptoms emerge in previously healthy prisoners. In less healthy ones, there is psychosis, mania or compulsive acts of self-abuse or suicide."
Nationally, supermaxes are on the decline with some closing or converting to regular maximum security prisons due to questions about the impacts and effectiveness of permanent solitary confinement, as well as the high cost of running supermax prisons. According to the Illinois Department of Corrections, the average annual cost of housing a prisoner at Tamms is two to three times as much as any other adult prison in Illinois.
Mental health professionals, prisoners' family members, attorneys and advocates are calling on the Illinois House of Representatives to end psychological torture at Tamms.
For more information:
Nora Ferrell, 312-408-2580 x 24
Laurie Jo Reynolds,
/PRNewswire-USNewswire -- April 28/
SOURCE MacArthur Justice Center