(pic to the right: exercise cages for Tamms inmates)
The use of solitary confinement without the consideration of the lasting effects, the inhumanity is an argument that has been heard all the way to Washington DC. For the men and women held in these torturous conditions, it is a matter of life or death in slow motion. We are thankful for the tireless efforts of the organizations that fought to close this facility and we look forward to celebrating the closure of many more in the days ahead. Here is an excerpt from the article posted by Solitary Watch.
by Alan Mills, Legal Director of the Uptown People's Law Center, which played a pivotal role in opposing Tamms.
Put simply, men were sent to Tamms to disappear.
Tamms was sold to the public as necessary to control the “worst of the worst” prisoners in Illinois. Yet when it opened in 1998, the majority of prisoners had virtually no disciplinary history at all. Rather, Tamms was populated by men who had sued the Department, filed grievances, and otherwise complained about illegal conduct by prison officials—wardens were looking for a way to get rid of these headaches. Other men transferred to Tamms had long histories of mental illness—which had never been treated in prison. Many were sent to Tamms because someone had claimed, at some point in the past, that they were gang leaders—even though most had never been found guilty of any gang activity. When the Uptown People’s Law Center challenged the placement of our clients in Tamms, we were told that these men were not entitled to a hearing, and would not be told why they had been sent to Tamms.
Some of these men have spent the last 15 years in complete and total solitary confinement at Tamms.
Tamms officially closes its doors today, first and foremost because the men sent there did not disappear. Rather than buckle under the extreme psychological pressure of solitary confinement, they banded together, fought back, and reached out and educated and organized their families and friends.
Let me tell you how they did it.
Like other “supermax” facilities, Tamms was designed to ensure that prisoners could be housed in complete isolation—never coming in contact with another prisoner, and only rarely coming in contact with staff. There is no dining hall; there is no chapel; there is no library; there are no classrooms; there is no yard. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are brought to prisoners in their cells—passed through a slot in a steel door. Medical and mental health care is generally provided through the cell door—with no privacy, and minimal ability for medical professionals to examine or even conduct a meaningful conversation with the men they are supposed to be caring for. (click on Solitary Watch for the rest of the story).