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Worst Prisons in the State of Illinois

Despite having a lesser incarceration rate than other US states, Illinois is home to over 42,000 inmates that are serving in different security classes at its state prisons.

Illinois, the heart of the Midwest, is known for its bustling cities, rich history, and diverse culture. However, beneath the surface lies a troubling issue that plagues the state—the state’s prison system. Despite having a relatively lower incarceration rate compared to some other US states, Illinois still locks up a significant number of its citizens. According to data from Prison Profile, the state incarcerates 497 people per 100,000 residents, which, while lower than many other countries, is relatively high compared to some other US states.

The Demographics of Incarceration in Illinois

Understanding the demographics of incarcerated individuals in Illinois is essential to grasp the gravity of the situation. Among the various racial groups, the majority of incarcerated men are Black African Americans, followed by American Indian or Alaska Native, Hispanic, and white Americans.

This disparity raises several questions about the problems faced by Illinois prisons, making them some of the worst in the country.

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Problems Faced by Illinois Prisons

Illinois prisons confront a myriad of issues that contribute to their poor reputation. Below are some of the key problems that inmates have to endure within these facilities:

1. Lack of Proper Medical Care

One of the most significant concerns within Illinois prisons is the lack of proper medical care for inmates. In 2020 alone, a staggering 47,298 inmates in various state and county prisons contracted COVID-19, highlighting the subpar healthcare conditions within the correctional facilities. This raises serious questions about the state’s responsibility to ensure the well-being of those in their custody.

2. Hygiene Issues

Hygiene is a critical factor affecting the overall health of inmates. Unfortunately, many Illinois prisons suffer from poor sanitation, leaving inmates without access to clean toilets, cell rooms, and nutritious meals. Such unhygienic conditions often lead to various health problems, further deteriorating the inmates’ well-being.

3. Gang Fights and Violence

Cases of violence and gang fights are rampant within Illinois prisons. What’s more troubling is that some of these incidents go unreported to the public, leaving the outside world largely unaware of the dangers faced by inmates daily. The prevalence of violence also stems from the lack of adequate security and staffing within the prisons.

4. Inadequate Staffing

The shortage of guards within different prisons poses significant challenges. This shortage allows powerful inmates to exert control over others, leading to an environment of fear and insecurity. Proper staffing is crucial for maintaining discipline and order within these facilities.

5. Overpopulation

Overcrowding is a persistent issue in many Illinois prisons. The strain on resources due to excessive inmate numbers affects everything from living conditions to access to educational and recreational facilities. Addressing the problem of overpopulation must be a priority to improve the overall quality of life within the prison system.

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Decreasing the Prison Population in Illinois

Reducing the prison population in Illinois is crucial to address the issues mentioned above. One of the primary contributors to the high incarceration rate is the state’s practice of imprisoning individuals for technical violations of probation and parole. While these violations are not crimes, offenders are still made to serve their probation and parole in state prisons. Addressing this practice can potentially save taxpayer money and alleviate some of the strain on the prison system.

The 7 Worst Prisons in Illinois

Several correctional facilities in Illinois have earned notoriety for their harsh conditions and inadequate management. Below are the seven worst prisons in the state:

1. Stateville Correctional Center

Stateville Correctional Center is a maximum-security prison known for its dangerous inmate population. The living conditions are deplorable, with unfit drinking water, insufficient nutrition in meals, and unsanitary living quarters. Reports of abuse by guards have also surfaced, painting a bleak picture of life within the facility.

2. Menard Correctional Center

Menard Correctional Center houses maximum and high medium-security adult males. Overcrowding and staff-related issues are prevalent here, leading to a range of problems, including criminal activities among inmates and insufficient access to basic services.

3. Dixon Correctional Center

Dixon Correctional Center, a medium-security all-male prison, faces staff shortages, which significantly affect the inmates’ access to free time and educational opportunities. The deteriorating facilities further add to the discomfort and agony of the inmates.

4. Pinckneyville Correctional Center

Pinckneyville Correctional Center is a medium-security prison known for its overcrowding, which results in limited resources for inmates. While the authorities maintain law and order, the lack of sufficient services remains a concern.

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5. Illinois River Correctional Center

This medium-security state prison in Canton, Illinois, faces similar challenges like staff shortages, overcrowding, and gang-related issues, contributing to a hostile environment for inmates.

6. Centralia Correctional Center

Centralia Correctional Center has its share of problems, with inmates causing frequent disruptions. The authorities’ struggle to maintain order, and some guards have been reported to be part of the problem.

7. Logan Correctional Center

The Logan Correctional Center, an all-female prison, has been criticized for its unacceptable conditions, including unclean cells, lack of access to promised resources, and incidents of physical harm.


Illinois’ prison system faces significant challenges, and addressing these issues is vital for the well-being of inmates and the overall safety of the state. Improving medical care, hygiene, staffing, and reducing overpopulation should be among the top priorities. By reforming certain practices, the state can work towards creating a correctional system that aims to rehabilitate rather than punish.


1. How does Illinois’ incarceration rate compare to other states? Despite having a relatively lower incarceration rate compared to some states, Illinois still locks up a significant number of its citizens, with 497 people per 100,000 residents.

2. What are the major problems faced by Illinois prisons? Illinois prisons grapple with issues like lack of medical care, hygiene problems, gang fights, inadequate staffing, and overpopulation.

3. How can the prison population be decreased in Illinois? Reducing the prison population can be achieved by reevaluating the practice of imprisoning individuals for technical probation and parole violations.

4. What are the worst prisons in Illinois? The seven worst prisons in Illinois are Stateville Correctional Center, Menard Correctional Center, Dixon Correctional Center, Pinckneyville Correctional Center, Illinois River Correctional Center, Centralia Correctional Center, and Logan Correctional Center.

5. What are some of the issues in Logan Correctional Center? Issues at Logan Correctional Center include unclean cells, lack of access to promised resources, and reports of physical harm.

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