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There is a water crisis in Illinois prisons.
“Shawnee water looks grayish, but turns clear after sitting for a while. It smells bad. I only really smell it when in the shower. And tastes like powder. We have access to water by commissary every two weeks. One pack of water with 28 bottles, is $12. The heat is run very high, forcing us to sweat and drink more water at night to stay hydrated. They are not giving out any free water or filters. Water problem extends to the showers” explained a man incarcerated in Shawnee Correctional Center.
On April 21st, the Coalition to Decarcerate Illinois and our partners Avalon Betts-Gaston, Dyanna Winchester, Anthony Jones, Meleah Geertsma from @nrdc_org , Alan
Mills from Uptown People's Law Center , Tanya Lozano from Healthy Hood Chicago and Sherrif Polk from The Final Five Campaign gathered outside the State Building a year after State’s prison water was found unsafe due to the detection of legionella bacteria, causing legionnaires disease, in several Illinois prisons. We are calling on Governor Pritzker to fulfill the following demands:
1. Immediately get people in Illinois prisons out of harm’s way by utilizing all avenues for executive release,
2. Undertake a full evaluation of the drinking water and sanitation systems in IDOC prisons and create a comprehensive plan for eliminating any threats to their health from them, and
3. To the extent that the State concludes the problems cannot be fixed or it is not willing to fix them, identify the facilities at issue for permanent closure.
In the year since the Illinois Department of Public Health notified the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) of legionella bacteria in several of the prisons’ water, several more violations have been identified. In December 2022 and January 2023, IEPA issued drinking water Notices of Violation (“NOVs”) to ten Illinois prisons, including Stateville and Vienna Correctional Centers. Agency inspection photos show storage tanks with sticks plugging holes in them at Vienna C.C. and the bottom of Statesville C.C.’s water tower covered with mildew.
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