By Angie Leventis
Amid claims of preventable deaths and substandard medical care, state officials have agreed to a sweeping overhaul of the health care system at prisons across Illinois, according to a proposed federal consent decree filed in Chicago on Thursday.
Under the agreement, which would resolve a lengthy lawsuit challenging the quality of care in the prison system, a federal monitor would be appointed to oversee reforms including increased medical and dental staffing, proper training and qualifications for staff, and infection and quality control measures.
The class action lawsuit filed about eight years ago claimed inmates have been denied adequate medical and dental care, putting them at substantial risk of serious harm.
The Illinois Department of Corrections did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Patty Schuh, a spokeswoman for Gov. Bruce Rauner, cautioned that the settlement is not finalized and needs court approval.
“I’m thrilled that my clients, the prisoners throughout the state of Illinois, will finally get the medical care that is constitutionally mandated,” said Alan Mills, executive director of the Uptown People’s Law Center, which represents inmates. “While Illinois has abolished the death penalty, the terrible medical care that is provided amounts to a slow-motion death penalty for far too many prisoners.”
During the legal battle, reviews by court-appointed experts in 2014 and 2018 reported pervasive problems in the health care provided in Illinois prisons. The most recent report attributed numerous preventable deaths to the poor quality of care, according to court records.