CHICAGO — There’s a new push to reform solitary confinement in Illinois.
The bill is named the Anthony Gay Isolated Confinement Restriction Act. It’s named after the former inmate who spent more than 20 years locked in solitary confinement.
Anthony Gay said he was put in a cell that’s the size of a parking space for 23-hours a day.
Lawyers for Anthony said he was first imprisoned for robbery when he was a teenager. They said he stole a hat and a one dollar bill, and later for driving a car without a license.
While in prison, Anthony acted out due to issues, he said, related to mental illness. That’s when he was sent to solitary.
“Smaller than a size of a parking space, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” he said.
His lawyers say that sent him in a cycle that caused him to hurt himself.
Gay was eventually diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. He said the isolation drove him to the extremes just for human contact.
“I cut my neck, my legs, my arms, and my private parts.”
The hope now is that this bill would help put an end to that cycle for others.
“Instead of being removed from solitary confinement, and offered adequate psychological counseling,” said Gay. “I was prosecuted, given 100 years, and buried deeper in solitary confinement for symptoms of mental illness that solitary confinement created.”
The bill is sponsored by State Rep Lashawn Ford. It would limit the number of days someone could spend in isolation to 10 consecutive days in a six-month period.
A person would also be allowed access to group therapy, medical appointments, educational classes, job assignments and exercise.
It would also require the Illinois Department of Corrections to provide quarterly reports on the use of isolated confinement.
The Illinois House is expected to vote on the bill by the end of the month.
About 67,000 inmates nationwide are spending up to 22-hours a day alone in a cell, according to a joint study by Yale University and the Association of State Correctional Administrators.
In 2018, a federal judge found that of the roughly 1,100 Illinois prisoners in solitary confinement, more than 900 had been diagnosed with mental illnesses.
In Dec. 2018, the Illinois Department of Corrections found that nearly one in three prisoners in segregation have a mental illness categorized as serious.