The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Barbaric Conditions in an Illinois Prison

Feb 28, 2022

Conditions faced by more than 1,000 inmates of Illinois’ Crest Hill Prison are barbaric.

Newly-sentenced prisoners are initially held at Crest Hill, southwest of Chicago, for up to a year, and then transferred to a permanent “correctional facility” elsewhere in the state.

For years prisoner complaints have been ignored by state officials. But recently, a prisoner’s lawsuit has brought the ugly reality of prison life at Crest Hill into public view. The Uptown People’s Law Center released prisoner complaints dating back to 2015 that expose inhumane living conditions and systematic abuse.

Prisoners say the facility is “riddled with vermin and coated in a hazardous mold”. Mice and rats run in and out of cells day and night. Cockroaches and other insects crawl everywhere and bury themselves in bedding, clothing, and other personal items. Gnats and flies swarm, especially where water collects on floors and shower areas.

Infestation is exacerbated during winter months as vermin come into the prison to escape from the cold outside. Year round, the filth and infestation exposes prisoners to a wide range of infections and diseases.

Adding to the squalor, the toilets, often covered in mold, do not flush properly and are connected in a corroded system of defective and improperly connected pipes. As a result, raw sewage and toilet wastewater backs up into the cells and collects on cell floors and in hallways. Sometimes it spreads into kitchens, bathroom sinks, dining, and communal shower areas.

As news of these deplorable conditions spread in local media, the response of state officials was to be expected—"no comment." Meanwhile, their bosses, which include politicians of both capitalist parties, are focused on putting public money in the hands of billionaire investors and have no interest in engaging the massive effort required to fix Crest Hill. Barbaric conditions of prison life are among the least of their concerns.