Suit: Prison Officials Quashed Debate Class After Inmates Talked Out Of Turn

Steve Miller
May 15, 2019 - 8:33 pm

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Five men -- all serving long sentences at Stateville Correctional Center because of murder convictions -- are suing Illinois prison officials for shutting down their debate class.

The inmates who filed the federal lawsuit say it's all about freedom of speech.

"The United States Constitution assures the right to freedom of speech even to people who are incarcerated in prison, and that right has been repeatedly reinforced and uphold by the courts, including the Supreme Court,” said attorney Brad Thomson of the People's Law Office.

He is representing the five men, who debated an issue about a year ago with an audience watching.

In that audience were some state legislators.

The topic for the debate: how to best reform Illinois' parole system.

Attorney Thomson says the debate was effective, and prison officials didn't like that.

"And they retaliated because of that, and that retaliation is a violation of the First Amendment,” he said.

The lawsuit asks Stateville to bring the debate class back.