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· Tamms Super Maximum Correctional Center, which opened in March 1998, is Illinois’ only “Supermax” prison. It is located at the southern tip of Illinois, originally opened under the guise of being for short-term incarceration.
· There is no bus service to the prison. There’s no way for family or friends to get to Tamms without a car. Visits hardly ever happen, and visitors only see inmates through a Plexiglas wall. Inmates in disciplinary segregation are additionally hand-cuffed, shackled, and chained to a cement stump throughout the entire visit.
· Tamms inmates are not allowed to make any phone calls unless there is a death in the family, and even then may have to go on a hunger strike to get it. Even at Florence ADX, the federal supermax prison where convicted al-Qaeda terrorists are imprisoned, inmates are allowed to make one phone call each month.
· No one is sent to Tamms for the crime they were incarcerated for. Criteria for placement at Tamms are currently so vague that every prisoner in the Illinois Department of Corrections is eligible. Decisions to send men to Tamms are secret and not open to review. Men are not given placement forms and many do not know why they are there. A number of men have life without parole sentences and don’t know if they will ever be released from Tamms to general population.
· Every man at Tamms Supermax is kept in solitary confinement. Men never leave their cell except to shower and exercise in a concrete room. Meals come through a slot in their cell door. Men at Tamms eat alone, pray alone, and walk the yard alone. Tamms keeps strict limits on the amount of personal property men can keep. This includes family photos, letters and Christmas cards.
· Long-term solitary confinement causes mental illness. Suicide attempts, self-mutilation, smearing of feces, and severe psychological illnesses are common at Tamms.
· Just 3 months in solitary confinement has detrimental effects. Yet one hundred men have been there since April of 1999. The other men at Tamms have been there for years and years on end. When proposing the creation of Tamms the Illinois legislature was told that it would be used solely as a sort of shock treatment for periods of one year for the “worst of the worst.”
· Taxpayers pay about $90,000 per year to keep a man at Tamms – over four times the cost of other state prisons. There is no clear benefit for this expense. Nor for the court costs incurred to defend against the numerous lawsuits for violations of these inmates’ constitutional rights.
Joseph Dole is an inmate in Tamms.