On July 15, 2004, a volunteer prisoners' rights advocate filed this lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In his complaint, the plaintiff requested injunctive and declaratory relief and compensatory and punitive damages against the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) and the Stateville Correctional Center. He alleged that the defendants' ban on distributing, "Stateville Speaks" inside Stateville Corrections Center was in violation of the First Amendment right to free speech and publication and Due Process as well as the Illinois Civil Rights Act. The plaintiff was represented by the Uptown People's Law Center.
In the summer of 2003, the plaintiff had sponsored an essay contest for inmates to answer the question, "Who am I", "What Can I Do to be Better?" The inmates submitted essays, which were judged by writers from the Chicago Tribune, CNN, and Chicago Sun Times. Based on the success of the contest, in the summer of 2004, the plaintiff published the essays in a book titled, Inside Prison Heart.
Following the publication, the plaintiff and one of the Stateville inmates, discussed publishing a newspaper, to be distributed within the prison. The proposed publication, "Stateville Speaks" would be a compilation of essays, poems, and news items written by inmates. A similar prison newspaper had been published years earlier.
In December 2003, the Chief of Operations at Stateville (COO) approved the publication, but in January 2004, a newly-appointed COO would not allow the publication within the prison. In March 2004, the plaintiff raised funds through private donors and published Stateville Speaks outside of the prison. According the IDOC's criteria, none of the printed material was prohibited. He then sent copies to the defendants. Two to three weeks passed without any response from the defendants. So, the plaintiff distributed copies to five inmates, with the intention of distributing another 100 copies within the prison. However, later in March, the prison refused to deliver the publication, and referred the matter to a "Publication Review Committee." That committee never responded to the plaintiff's inquiries. This case ensued.
In August 2004, one month after the plaintiff filed his first complaint and five months after the first denial of permission, the defendants again stated that the material was prohibited and refused to deliver newspapers within the prison. In November 2004, the defendants shifted positions, and permitted distribution, but only if the plaintiff removed one article and a portion of another article. At no point was the plaintiff offered a method by which to appeal any decision.
On January 7, 2005, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint. On September 1, 2005, the defendants' motion to dismiss was denied by the District Court (Judge Ronald A. Guzman). The District Court held that the First Amendment protected plaintiff's right to publish the speech of Stateville inmates and to distribute it the inmates.
In November the parties settled, and on January 31, 2006, a stipulation of dismissal was entered. Although the agreement is not available, a 2006 Prison Legal News article explained that under the settlement, the state revised its policy to provide for written notice of rejection of any publication to the aggrieved prisoner and to the publisher within 30 days, after which time the prisoner may submit a supportive statement within seven days and the publisher may object within 21 days. The defendants also agreed $15,000 in attorney fees.
As of January 31, 2006 the case is closed. Beth Richardson - 07/08/2015