Living with criminals, sociopaths and the most violent members of society must have a deadening, dehumanizing effect on those entrusted with containing the inmates. The successes are likely thin and thankless. The failures monumental and the stuff of movies and folk songs.
The Orange Crush lawsuit has all the hallmarks of an epic failure within the Illinois Department of Corrections.
The elite, mobile tactical unit is specially trained and equipped with riot gear to handle violence within state prisons: end inmate-induced chaos and raid cells for contraband. Inmates claim the unit, known as Orange Crush for their orange uniforms, often are a means of collective punishment to show who’s in charge after a guard is attacked.
The inmate view certainly gains some ground with the federal lawsuit filed in East St. Louis that states the Orange Crush tactical squad stripped prisoners and forced them to close march. Supposedly if the tactical officers saw daylight between naked inmates, the inmates would be thrown into solitary.
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This practice being carried out in front of female corrections officers and accompanied by whoops and pounding metal tables is a scene out of a bad movie. There can be no purpose other than to sexually humiliate the inmates.
Remember the last group engaging in that behavior? They were U.S. soldiers holding inmates at Abu Ghraib in Iraq who outfitted the inmates with dog leashes, women’s underwear and shrouds as they were hooked to fake electrocution devices.
Our state owes compensation, safety and respect to its correctional officers. They in turn owe us professionalism in how they exert power and to curb their own sense of entitlement so it does not extend to fake workers’ comp claims that give them fancy bass boats or to sadistic shows that give them a sense of superiority.
They also owe their fellow correctional officers a safe work environment. Since when does punishing a group of inmates for the violence of a few do anything but build a large reserve of resentment?
The IDOC needs to quickly investigate these claims and fix problems found within Orange Crush. That is more important than insulating the department from this lawsuit.