Black & Pink Chicago is working on the first-ever community-based research project about civil commitment in Illinois. Earlier this year, we created and distributed a 50-question survey to the people inside of Rushville Treatment and Detention Center with questions that will help us better understand the deliberately confusing practice of civil commitment. A survey is one way that we can get a centralized body of knowledge about civil commitment, which centers civilly committed peoples’ voices. The findings of our survey can direct our advocacy work.
What is Civil Commitment?
Civil commitment is the practice of indefinitely detaining people with “sex offense” convictions. Deemed too dangerous to reenter society by the Attorney General, these people are held and given involuntary “corrective” therapy instead of being released after serving their prison sentence. In effect, civil commitment is reincarceration without a release date, under the guise of treatment.
Illinois is one of 20 states that has laws around and practices civil commitment. People with “sex offense” convictions are civilly committed at one of two facilities: Rushville Treatment and Detention Center or Big Muddy Correctional Center.
In the 13 years that Rushville has been open over 70 people inside have died, often because they did not receive proper diagnosis or medical treatment for health issues at the time that they requested it. Additionally, anecdotal accounts tell us that medical conditions are abysmal and that the “corrective” treatment program is ineffective, stigmatizing, and re-traumatizing.
Our inside members report disproportionate discrimination against LGBTQ+ people as well. This compounds a long history of disproportionate surveillance and criminalization of queer sexualities and genders.
You can read more about civil commitment at https://thenextsystem.org/learn/stories/beyond-carceral-logic-civil-commitment
How can you help?
Come to our second Data Entry Day on August 17th from 9:30am-2:30pm at the Humboldt Park Branch of the Chicago Public Library, 1605 N Troy St, Chicago IL 60647 (approx at Kedzie & North). At Data Entry Day, we will be entering responses from paper surveys into online forms. This will be an opportunity to read the handwritten accounts of people who are civilly committed! We will also have time to talk more about civil commitment, share impressions and feelings about the experiences revealed in the surveys, and learn more about the future of this ground-breaking project as well as opportunities for future involvement.
Please bring computers/tablets if you are able to. One for yourself, and extras if you have them! Lunch (including gluten free and vegan options) will be provided. Tap-out people will be available to be present with you while you process. If you have any access needs, do not hesitate to contact firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will try our best to accommodate. Unfortunately, this library only has binary gendered restrooms.
Although we encourage you to come for all or most of the time, any time you are able to offer is very much appreciated. See you soon!