The Law Center’s Legal Director, Alan Mills, visited Menard prison yesterday, here are some of the things he saw:

This is a preliminary report on my visit to Menard today. A few of the men I spoke with asked that their stories be told more fully. Those will be the subject of blog posts in the coming days, after I get back to Chicago and have. A chance to organize (and decipher) my notes.


I arrived at Menard at 9:10. I immediately noticed that they were installing a much needed new roof on the south cell house. However, once inside, I was kept waiting until 10:15 before I started my first visit–scheduled for 9. I later learned that the prisoner I was visiting had been in the visiting room since before 9. Probably this was just a matter of under-staffing, not malice. Side note: one poor family was denied a visit entirely. A young woman and her mom were trying to visit her dad on her 17th birthday. They did not realize that 17 is the age at which the “adult id rules” kick in, and she suddenly needed two forms of ID. Her newly minted IL drivers license would have worked fine yesterday, but was not enough today. Visit denied – who knows how far they had to travel to get to the prison and when the family will next afford to take the trip.

I saw a total of nine men in seven hours. Two were in general population; three were confined in the special “High Security Unit” (one more had been there when I arranged the visits, but was moved out THIS MORNING–more on his story in a coming post); two suffered from serious mentally illnesses; and two were housed in the North2 segregation unit–see March 25th blog post, “45 Square Feet (

When I was last at Menard, I had heard a rumor that two men in North2 had developed bed sores. I was skeptical. Healthy young people do not get bed sores in this society. But my source was adamant. He was right; The rumor is true. I met both men today. I can not over-emphasize how appalling this is.

Four days a week, two grown men are locked, 24 hours a day, in a 4 1/2 by 10 foot cell.
Solid door.
No window.
No ventilation.
2 days a week, they get a 5 minute shower.
1 day a week, they may be allowed 5 hours yard (often cancelled).

That is IT. Otherwise, they are locked into a tiny, airless cell. To enforce this level of inactivity on a person is inhumane! When incapacitated elderly people develop bed sores, it is a sign of severe mistreatment and neglect. Bed sores look like this:


There is NO excuse for this to EVER happen to ANYONE in prison. One of these men was only 33!