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JHA: Prison Overcrowding Exacerbates Violence

Tamms Correctional Center

Illinois’ top prison watchdog group says overcrowding is exacerbating inmate violence.

The John Howard Association suspects recent prison closings are partly to blame.

With the recent closing of the Tamms Correctional Center, the Menard Correctional Center in Chester received an influx of inmates.

Since that closing, two prisoner deaths and an inmate assault on three staff members have occurred.

John Maki is the executive director of the John Howard Association. He says overcrowding presents extreme dangers to the prison system.

“Ultimately there is a price to pay when you start packing people into places that they weren’t meant to be. That’s a danger to staff, it’s a danger to inmates, and ultimately it’s a danger to the public, because most inmates, even in places like Menard, will eventually be returned to their area,” Maki said.

While the association does not have independent information, Maki says there is certainly more talk of assaults this year.

“We’re definitely hearing about a lot more assaults in prisons,” Maki said. “We’re hearing about it from inmates, and we’re hearing it from staff. And that’s very reasonable to expect given how dangerously overcrowded the Illinois state prison system is.”

Maki and the Association attribute this to the fact that “there are almost 50,000 inmates in system designed for 33,000.”

Illinois Department of Corrections spokesperson Stacey Solano says both deaths are under investigation, but only the first death of Jason Hall is being called a criminal homicide investigation. The most recent death of Yusuf Abuzir is still pending autopsy and toxicology reports.

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