Mental Health Care in Illinois Prisons—An Update: Some good news; a lot of bad news

Presentation:  Mental Health Care in Illinois Prisons

Overview:

Since 2008, the Uptown People’s Law Center has been pursuing litigation in an attempt to improve the quality of mental health care provided to Illinois prisoners. In May 2016, the Illinois Department of Corrections entered into a settlement agreement which called for court supervision over an extensive restructuring of the entire prison mental health care system. This session will provide background on the care provided to people with mental illness in Illinois prisons, and an update on what has, and has not, changed in the last three years under court supervision.

Alan Mills Bio:

Alan Mills is Executive Director of Uptown People’s Law Center, a nonprofit community legal clinic located on the North Side of Chicago. UPLC is a legal organization that fights for justice for tenants, the disabled, and prisoners in Illinois.

Alan began visiting prisoners at Cook County Jail during law school, and has tried dozens of individual cases on behalf of prisoners in state and federal court during the last 35+ years. Alan represented prisoners in segregation claiming they were denied meaningful access to the courts (Walters v. Edgar). While the trial court initially ruled in the prisoners’ favor, after 16 years of litigation, the appellate court reversed and dismissed the entire case. Alan was also the lead attorney in the case challenging Illinois’ Tamms supermax prison, which lead to the closing of that prison. Currently, UPLC is lead counsel in seven class action cases alleging that Illinois prisons violate the constitutional rights of the people who are kept there. These include Rasho v. Baldwin, which challenges the constitutionality of mental health care provided to prisoners. Also included are class actions challenging the quality of medical care provided to Illinois prisoners, challenging the state’s failure to accommodate the communication needs of deaf and hard of hearing prisoners, and challenging Illinois’ use of solitary confinement. In 2017, UPLC settled the Rasho case alleging unconstitutional treatment of mentally ill prisoners, and is now monitoring to ensure proper standards are met.

Alan graduated from Northwestern University School of Law in 1981. Since 2005, he has served as an adjunct professor there, teaching a seminar on Prisons and Prisoners’ Rights. For the last seven years, he has also helped train attorneys appointed to represent prisoners in civil rights cases by the U.S. District Courts for the Northern and Southern Districts of Illinois.

 NOTE: There may be a second panelist: a formerly incarcerated person who was a consumer of the mental health care provided by the Illinois Department of Corrections.