Expectations and Accountability
Governor Rauner needs to be aware of how the Illinois Department of Corrections staff treats inmates and visitors. Rules and codes are created by legislature as well as administration. The staff, inmates and visitors are required to follow these rules and codes; however, the facility administration and the staff do not.
Staff damages inmate property as well as steals their property, in their cells and from the mail and property rooms. Staff is not required to reimburse the inmate for loss and damage of property. Staff members that are of the opposite sex of the inmate should not be allowed to perform duties where the inmate is performing personal hygiene, such as showers, changing clothes, etc.; the staff member may misinterpret what the inmate is doing, which may lead to a disciplinary report written against the inmate or possibly segregation. The inmate has the right to file a grievance. However, if the counselor feels the issue is not worthy of a grievance the inmate is denied the grievance form or the counselor discards the grievance in the trash as he/she walks away from the inmate. Grievances have been ignored and lost either permanently or long enough to go past the deadline. Most often than not once an inmate files the grievance, the retaliation, harassment and abuse gets worse. When the inmate’s family gets involved, acting on behalf of the inmate, the retaliation, harassment and abuse becomes more prominent toward the inmate. Access to the law library, denial of medical attention, family notification in emergency situations, and racial slurs regarding color, religion, and culture are used against inmates, to name a few.
Visitors are also subjected to the actions of the staff. Visitors are given rules regarding dress codes, visiting hours that include length of visit, required identification, property, person and vehicle search, and what is expected from a visitor regarding their behavior towards staff. Visitors are subjected to staff complaints about inmate, staff, and visitor behavior; they complain about the allowance of visits, their salary, understaffing, and administration. Visitors are questioned about their personal life in regards to why are they visiting, why are they with an inmate; they inform the visitor they’ve read the inmates file and know why they are in prison. Staff does not cover for another staff member while they are at lunch; the visitor is required to wait until the staff member returns. The visitor may see the rule as it reads, but it is interpreted individually by staff. Therefore, visitors may be required to leave the premises to change clothes, a visit may end early, and a visit will not be lengthened if the visitor is required to leave the visiting room to use the restroom that requires them to wait to be searched and returned to the visit. Visiting room vending machines are for inmates and their visitors; staff purchase products from these vending machines rather from the vending machines in their break room.
Several other issues need to be considered on behalf inmates as well. The food that is served, not only the soy but the written menu versus the reality of what is served, the quality, quantity, and the number of meals per day. The inmates convicted of Class X, Class M, and sentences of Life without Parole should be considered for good time. Their education, work, mentoring, and overall behavior throughout their time should be taken into account and considered.
The definition of ‘accountability’ is the willingness to accept responsibility for ones actions. The Illinois Department of Corrections should hold their staff accountable for the way they treat inmates and visitors. A thorough investigation of each facility within the Illinois Department of Corrections needs to be conducted.
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