Have you RAISED YOUR VOICE to close Tamms?

Posted on April 16, 2012

Adapted from Tamms Year Ten:

Governor Quinn has proposed to close Tamms supermax prison, but this is a tough fight. We are facing a political battle against AFSCME and other interests who are fighting to keep Tamms open.

Tamms Year Ten needs your help! Please contact your legislator by calling their office and emailing them a letter.



Dear Representative,

Governor Quinn’s decision to close Tamms supermax prison has been applauded by mental health and human rights advocates around the country.I am writing to ask you to please follow the governor’s lead and push for closure. Tamms is expensive, inefficiently run, and condemned by international human rights monitors. We can’t afford it, we don’t need it and it is morally wrong.
• The supermax is designed to hold 500 inmates, but has 180. This is the only facility closure that will not increase prison overcrowding or eliminate essential social services.
• Transferring these men from the supermax (and 180 from a minimum security camp) will allow the state to redirect some $27 million dollars.
• Isolation invokes psychiatric problems in otherwise healthy people. Suicide attempts, self-mutilation, depression, hallucinations and thesmearing of feces are widespread at Tamms. For people with mental illness, solitary confinement is particularly devastating.
• Federal Judge G. Patrick Murphy ruled in 2010 that incarceration at Tamms constitutes sensory deprivation and inflicts lasting mental damage to the men housed there.
• Incarceration at Tamms impedes successful reentry to society or other prisons. This type of confinement causes serious maladjustment and increases the risk of recidivism.
• Most of the men at Tamms are just like those in Pontiac, Menard or Stateville. About 40% of current Tamms prisoners will be released atsome point in the next twenty years. Most will return to Cook Country in much worse shape because of their years in isolation in Tamms.
• We already have an all-segregation prison—Pontiac. Each of the 1700 prisoners currently at Pontiac is serving segregation time for something they did in a regular prison. There is no general population. The few men at Tamms who require extra restraint and supervision can be held safely on the former Death Row at Pontiac.
• Other states have recently closed or greatly altered their supermax prisons, including Mississippi, Maine and Virginia, at great savings and not only saved money but reduced violence. Others have sharply cut their supermax populations. Supermax prisons were a historic wrong turn and alternatives work better.
• Tamms is in gross violation of now settled US constitutional law forbiding the long-term isolation of people with serious mental illness. It also violates the UN Committee on torture’s prohibition of psychological torture against all people in confinement.

Please push for closure throughout the budget process and ask your colleagues to do the same. I welcome the chance to hear your plans and to address any questions or concerns you might have.

Thank you very much for your time. Please know that all your hard work is greatly appreciated!