A federal judge in Chicago has found the Illinois Department of Corrections is violating the constitutional rights of prisoners convicted of certain sex crimes by making the restrictions on where they can live so stringent that inmates are often locked up long beyond their sentences.
In a ruling issued Sunday, Judge Virginia Kendall wrote that hundreds of offenders in the state’s prison system successfully complete their entire court-ordered sentences yet remain behind bars indefinitely. Kendall found the corrections department is depriving them of fundamental rights, and if they had money and support, they’d be able to leave and begin serving out what’s called “mandatory supervised release.”
Mark Weinberg, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said the decision could mean relief for hundreds of people who have been in prison even though they’ve served their time.
“A plaintiff of mine called me [today] to say it’s the talk of the prison,” he said. “There are ways to protect public safety but holding people in prison long after their sentences are over isn’t the proper way to do it.”
In 2017, WBEZ visited and spoke with J.D. Lindenmeier, one of the plaintiffs in the case. At that time, Lindenmeier had been behind bars six years past his court-ordered release date. But he’s still in prison today, a total of eight years beyond his sentence because he can’t find a place to live that complies with the state’s requirements.
Prisoners call the time they serve beyond their sentences — often many years — “dead time.”