A federal judge has significantly changed how the the Illinois corrections system operates: inmates can now challenge orders sending them to the maximum security Tamms Correctional Center. According to George Pawlaczyk of the Belleville News-Democrat (a Southwestern Illinois paper that has done a series on conditions at Tamms), U.S. District Judge G. Patrick Murphy ruled that all prisoners must be told why they’re being sent to Tamms, the state’s only supermax prison facility. Also, prisoners have 48 hours to prepare for a hearing where they can challenge their transfer. Inmates in the maximum security section of Tamms — which is right by the Kentucky border — must spend 23 hours of every 24 in solitary confinement. The News-Democrat series on the prison focuses on how mentally ill inmates were hastily being sentenced to solitary confinement, after which their condition worsened.
One side issue is how the ruling impacts the revitalization of the Thomson, Illinois correctional facility. The Thomson prison was first discussed as a possible site for Guantanamo Bay detainees, but now it is more likely to be a regular federal prison. In either case Thomson will be another maximum security facility. So will prisoners also have a right to challenge a transfer to Thomson? Or do 14th amendment due process rights apply only when inmates challenge solitary confinement?