IL Prison Death Prompts Calls For Better Mental Treatment


On June 8, Robert Foor asked the Illinois Department of Corrections to transfer him out of Tamms Correctional Center and into a mental health prison, plus proper treatment and medication. Last week, reports the Illinois Times, he was found unresponsive in his cell, and within hours was pronounced dead . He was 33 years old, and had been held in solitary confinement for more than 10 years. A coroner could not find an obvious cause of death. Foor was incarcerated in 1994 for residential burglary. Though he had no record of violent crime in the free world, in prison he accumulated three convictions for aggravated battery: one against a fellow inmate, and two against peace officers.

Foor's death has reignited calls for prison reform from Tamms Year Ten, a nonprofit organization that has for 18 months been asking Illinois to address the mental health needs of Tamms inmates, and to develop objective criteria that would allow prisoners to “step down” from this all-solitary-segregation “supermax” prison. Jean Maclean Snyder, a Chicago attorney who filed a lawsuit on behalf of mentally ill Tamms inmates in 1999, says the state long had been aware of Foor's mental illness.

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