Tamms Prison Keeps Prisoner Secluded-Posted By Beauty
Isolated from the Real World
Tamms prison keeps prisoners secluded
by Silvana Tabares
Imagine being in a top-security prison cell in permanent solidarity confinement 24/7 with absolutely no human contact. This is the situation at Tamms C-Max (Closed Maximum Security) prison, where approximately 200 prisoners don’t know why they are there or when they will be released. Tamms prison is located in Tamms, a village in Southern Illinois, about 365 miles or almost six hours away from the Chicago area.
According to a medical expert, the ramifications of isolation can have an effect on a human’s mental state of mind. A coalition of activists are advocating for a bill that would enforce regulation at Tamms prison.
Steve Martínez, 40, has a brother (whose name was asked to be withdrawn from this story) who is incarcerated in Tamms. At age 18, his brother was sentenced to 25 years in prison after being convicted of murder. He is now 38 and has been in solidarity confinement at Tamms for the past eight years.
Martínez said his brother was transferred to Tamms without notice or an explanation. He said his brother should serve his sentence, but not in solidarity confinement. He is concerned about his brother’s ability to function socially when he is released – given the known tendency of prolonged isolation to cause mental deterioration.
“These are not only prisoners, but they are people that are being isolated in a cell for years,” Martínez said. “They are warehousing people. Nobody knows about them. No evaluations [are] being done.”
Martínez’ significant other, Bernadette Maciel, is an advocate of the Supermax Legislation Reform Bill, HB6651. She is an active member of the Tamms Year Ten campaign, a coalition of prisoners, ex-prisoners, families and concerned citizens who are protesting the policies at Tamms. If approved, the bill will allow prisoners to remain at Tamms for no more than a year.
“Men have been there more than a year,” Maciel said. “Those men don’t know how to interact with other people.”
The legislation wouldn’t allow prisoners with a serious mental illness to be sent to Tamms.
Terry Kupers, M.D., is a psychiatrist and an expert witness on prisons and prisoner’s mental health. He said social interaction in prisons is needed.
“They are not taking part in activities to succeed when they get out,” Kupers said.
He said isolation brings negative percussions and if left untreated, can lead to long lasting negative effects.
Facts about Tamms
• Tamms opened in March 1998 as a “supermax” prison intended for short-term incarceration.
• One hundred of the men now at Tamms have been there since the prison opened in 1998 – 10 years ago.
• Many men at Tamms have no record of prison violence or disciplinary problems.
• Taxpayers spend between $60,000 and $100,000 a year to keep a man in Tamms. It costs three to five times as much as it costs to keep someone in a maximum-security prison.
For more information about Tamms prison, visit @link href='http://www.yearten.org'>www.yearten.org and @link href='http://www.idoc.state.il.us'>www.idoc.state.il.us.