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Latest Report of Court-Appointed Monitor Shows Continued Inadequate Medical Care in Illinois Prisons

Dr. John Raba is the court-appointed Monitor for the Lippert class action in the federal court in Chicago, in which a consent decree was issued in 2019. In the decree, state officials agreed that the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) would provide adequate medical care to inmates as required by law.

In his latest report, the Monitor states: “After nearly five years, the lack of progress towards compliance with the Consent Decree can be summarized as a failure by the State to establish the foundations of an adequate medical program in the IDOC.” The report also states: “The Monitor cautions Parties and the Court that IDOC will not attain compliance with this decree in the ten years that is specified for completion unless significant changes occur.”

The two major barriers to compliance, according to the Monitor, are staffing and physical plant deficiencies. As to staffing, the State has a contractor to provide medical services, but half of the positions that the contractor is required to provide are unfilled. The State is also responsible for providing staffing with its own employees, but IDOC was unable to provide the Monitor with any information on how many state positions are allocated and vacant. As to the physical plant deficiencies, the Monitor acknowledges that the IDOC has developed plans to address the problems but concludes: “It is doubtful that the problems with the physical plant will be sufficiently resolved in the time period remaining for IDOC to attain compliance with the Consent Decree.”

The Monitor’s report includes the conclusions of Southern Illinois University (SIU), based on its review of 107 deaths of persons incarcerated by IDOC. SIU found that in connection with these 107 deaths there were 899 deficiencies in nine categories, including failure to recognize, evaluate, and manage important symptoms, failure to follow clinical guidelines, delay in access to appropriate care, failure to appropriately react to abnormal test results, failure of appropriate communication between providers, medication delivery errors, practicing outside the scope of professional capability, failure of physicians to be readily available for consultation, and delay or failure in emergency response.

The Monitor’s most recent report on the failure of IDOC to provide adequate medical care confirms the continuing validity of the Monitor’s observation in his first report that “The aging population in the IDOC is placing an increasing burden on the functioning of the correctional facilities and on the correctional health care system” and that “the IDOC must take the lead to create a pathway to discharge those men and women whose mental and medical conditions make them no longer a risk to society to appropriate settings in the community.”

The Elder Parole Bill, HB 2045, would address problems of inadequate medical care identified by the Monitor, by releasing older people who pose no threat to society, and who require increasing medical care as they age, to community settings where they can receive adequate medical care, and by freeing up IDOC medical resources for the care of those persons who need to continue to be incarcerated.  

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