Vienna prison at the center of inmate lawsuit - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Vienna prison at the center of inmate lawsuit

A view on the inside of Vienna prison near the town square. (Source: Giacomo Luca, KFVS) A view on the inside of Vienna prison near the town square. (Source: Giacomo Luca, KFVS)
Inmates stand outside during recreational time. (Source: Giacomo Luca, KFVS) Inmates stand outside during recreational time. (Source: Giacomo Luca, KFVS)
The view of Vienna Correctional Center campus from building 19. (Source: Giacomo Luca, KFVS) The view of Vienna Correctional Center campus from building 19. (Source: Giacomo Luca, KFVS)
A view of a cell block at Vienna Correctional Center. (Source: Giacomo Luca, KFVS) A view of a cell block at Vienna Correctional Center. (Source: Giacomo Luca, KFVS)
VIENNA, IL (KFVS) - The Vienna Correctional Center in Johnson County, Illinois has been at the center of a class action lawsuit filed by inmates in 2012.

Three inmates on behalf of several hundred are suing the state over conditions at the prison.

The inmates say their 8th amendment rights were violated.

Giacomo Luca was the only television reporter to take you inside the Vienna Correctional Center on Thursday, the first time since 2012.

On Oct. 30, both U.S. Magistrate Judge Philip M. Frazier, the judge hearing the case, and U.S. District Judge Phil Gilbert walked through the Vienna Correctional Center.

Because the case is ongoing, no information can be released, according to Frazier's law clerk Karen Stallman.

So, we thought we'd just show you what he saw.

It's a minimum security prison a few miles south of the city of Vienna in southern Illinois.

Vienna houses inmates on their way out, according to Vienna Correctional Warden Robert Hilliard.

"We continually try to improve,” Warden Robert Hilliard said.

In 2011, a prison watchdog and reform group, Chicago's John Howard Association, did a case study on the facility. They wrote that Vienna Correctional had many much needed many improvements.

Shortly after the John Howard report, three Vienna inmates filed a class action lawsuit in 2012 against the state; citing bad conditions of Vienna Correctional facility went against their right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment.

Building 19 is at the center of the lawsuit, it is home to several hundred inmates.

The inmates living in building 19 live several large rooms of 70 or more people per room.

IDOC representatives say there were no major issues in building 19.

“The bottom line from my perspective is that building 19 is overcrowded," Allan Mills said, a lawyer representing the inmates from the Uptown People's Law Center in Chicago. "The place was never designed for human occupation.”

The 73 page suit cites overcrowding, infestations of insects and vermin and lack of maintenance in facility - such as ventilation and sanitation.

"Can we improve. Are we willing to take a look at things? We are always willing to do that,” Tom Shaer, IDOC spokesperson, said.

Thursday, IDOC representatives say many things have been improved regardless of the suit.

"We don't always think we're right,” Shaer said. “We know we're not always wrong. So, we try to work together and improve things and we're happy that that's happened here at Vienna."

The prison population is nearly 100 less than the maximum. New recreation yards have been added and there is an ongoing project to replace windows in all facilities.

“I think that this has been a very collaborative effort," Mills said. “We're very close on almost everything.”

Mill says IDOC still needs to complete the window project and he says he thinks IDOC should find a new use of space for building 19.

“Once all of that's done – I still don't think it's a place for people to live, but it will be a human place for people to live,” Mills said.

The next time the case is expected to be discussed is in January of 2015.

The inmates in the case are not seeking monetary damages, Mills said.

Copyright 2014 KFVS. All rights reserved.

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