The situation for women housed at the Illinois’ Logan Correctional Center has become “untenable,” says a new study funded by the Department of Justice that found overcrowded conditions, problems with handling mentally ill inmates, and the overuse of harsh punishments, the Chicago Tribune reports. The study says the problems are rooted partly in a 2013 decision by the Illinois Department of Corrections to consolidate the populations of its two largest women’s prisons at Logan, an aging facility that had been used to house about 1,500 men. There are 2,000 women there, including hundreds of inmates with mental health problems.
The state made the transition “with limited planning, staff training and efforts to take into account the unique nature and needs of such a large, complex women’s prison population of all security levels,” says the report, outlining how women are often treated too harshly and their stays behind bars are extended unnecessarily. A team of 18 consultants spent four days at Logan conducting interviews, reviewing documents, running focus groups and administering a survey of inmates and staff. It found a prison severely lacking the tools to effectively work with female inmates. “Overall, the team found the challenges at Logan to be devastating,” said project coordinator Deanne Benos, a former state corrections official. “The facility is operating in crisis and it’s making the staff and women housed there much less safe.”