Illinois Closes Last Prison ‘Roundhouse’ in the U. S.

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Illinois prison officials yesterday moved the last 36 inmates out of a Stateville Correctional Center “roundhouse,” a complex that a watchdog group dubbed “not fit for human habitation,” the Chicago Sun-Times reports. The maximum-security F House, which housed 348 male inmates, is officially closed, the Illinois Department of Corrections said. No other prison in the U.S. has kept roundhouses, in which cells circle a watchtower in the middle. F House was intended for inmates who posed a threat to staff or other inmates. The John Howard Association — a prison watchdog group — said the outdated roundhouse design “magnified the already distressing auditory and visually chaotic experience prison frequently inflicts.”

The closing allows the corrections department to divert $10.3 million in maintenance costs into other housing units and programs. It’s not yet clear what the unit will be used for, but the department said it “recognizes its historical value” and plans to maintain the building. It was built in 1922. The state says the layout is outdated and created safety and operational hazards for both the staff and offenders. Even among prisons, F House had a brutal reputation.

 

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