In the coming days, Illinois lawmakers will vote on a critical bill affecting the health and human rights of incarcerated individuals across the state. If enacted, HB 2045 would prevent the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) and the Department of Juvenile Justice from charging inmates prohibitive co-pay fees for medical care.
Across Illinois, individuals held in state prisons are routinely denied medical care as a result of prohibitive co-pay fees imposed by IDOC. While these nominal charges do little to offset the costs of prison healthcare, they prove successful in their actual design to deter the state’s disproportionately poor inmate population from accessing essential medical services. An incarcerated person earning the prison minimum wage of $0.09 an hour would need to work more than 55 hours to pay the $5 fee incurred for a single medical visit. As a result, inmates are regularly compelled to forgo both preventative and urgently needed medical attention.
IDOC’s burdensome medical copay fees impose devastating, often fatal consequences on incarcerated Illinoisans. An independent investigation recently filed in federal court in connection with an ongoing lawsuit over negligent prison health care found that nearly one in three prison deaths were medically preventable. Countless other critical health conditions could have been averted if inmates had adequate access to basic medical services.
Illinois’ prison system relies on prohibitive copay fees to stem the flow of patients into its underinvested medical system. The state currently has the second-lowest number of medical staff and spending per inmate in the nation. IDOC’s overburdened prison medical system is the direct consequence of the state’s prison overpopulation crisis. Propelled by decades of draconian law enforcement and sentencing practices, Illinois currently leads the nation in prison overpopulation, operating facilities at more than 140% of design capacity.
In order to protect the health and human rights of incarcerated Illinoisans, lawmakers must prohibit IDOC from charging fees for medical care, increase financial investment in inmate health care, and reverse the prison overpopulation crisis through retroactive sentencing reform.
Your voice is crucial to advancing the fight for racial equity, opportunity and justice. Advocate for the change you want to see in your city, state and beyond by visiting WCRJ’s Racial Justice Online Action Center and demanding policy action of your elected officials now.
The Workers Center for Racial Justice (WCRJ) and the Center for Racial and Gender Equity (CRGE) are pleased to announce the launch of the Racial Justice Online Action Center. This interactive legislative website offers users critical analysis on key racial justice policies and accessible opportunities to promote equity in our communities.
The online guide analyzes the racial impact of more than twenty critical bills currently pending in the Illinois General Assembly. Our legislative agenda includes policies pertaining to criminal justice reform, re-entry, police accountability, workers rights, economic justice and direct democracy. Each bill summary is accompanied by a quick one-click action that allows constituents to urge elected officials to either support or oppose significant legislation via a pre-written email or tweet.
By inviting individuals to help spark big change through accessible online actions, this initiative serves as a low threshold entry point into the broader movement for Black Liberation. Through this project, WCRJ and CRGE will grow our powerful base of grassroots racial justice activists and prime the pipeline of progressive Black leadership.
Your voice is crucial to advancing the fight for racial equity, opportunity and justice. Advocate for the change you want to see in your city, state and beyond by demanding policy action of your elected officials now.
In the coming days, members of the Illinois House of Representative will consider a critical bill that would prohibit the state from levying unjust and exorbitant lawsuits against formerly incarcerated residents. HB 900, which passed through House committee this week, would repeal the statewide prison “pay-to-stay” law, under which the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) is permitted to charge former inmates for the costs of their incarceration and to conduct intrusive investigations of their personal financial assets.
In 2015, formerly incarcerated Illinoisans witnessed a devastating uptick in the number of lawsuits the state filed against individuals to recoup the cost of imprisonment. The state's pay-to-stay provision allows IDOC to aggressively investigate inmates' finances in order to identify potential targets of such lawsuits. This measure facilitates the systematic plunder of what small amounts of capital are held among the state's disproportionately poor inmate population.Through this unscrupulous practice, Illinois has seized all manner of minor assets from prisoners, including savings earned through low wage prison labor and the proceeds awarded in a lawsuit over negligent prison medical care.
Financial stability is essential to supporting the long term safety, opportunity and liberation of formerly incarcerated residents. By stripping individuals of their personal capital, the pay-to-stay law undermines equity and justice for returning Illinoisans, as well as their families and communities. Moreover, such practices serve to perpetuate Illinois' inhumane and racially targeted system of mass incarceration by continuing to directly offload its collateral costs onto inmates and communities of color.
This action alert marks the launch of WCRJ and CRGE’s Racial Justice Action Center, a project designed to offer our supporters critical analysis on key policy issues and accessible opportunities to promote equity and justice in our community. By inviting individuals to help spark big change through small, one-click actions, the Racial Justice Action Center serves as a low threshold entry point into the broader movement for Black Liberation. Through this project, WCRJ and CRGE will broaden and deepen its base of powerful racial justice activists and prime the pipeline of progressive Black leadership.