Ex-inmate on controversial prison: ‘Tamms never leaves my head’ – Chicago Sun-Times

Ex-inmate on controversial prison: ‘Tamms never leaves my head’ – Chicago Sun-Times.

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Brian Nelson, was the 13th inmate to be sent to Tamms Correctional Center in Tamms, Illinois. Nelson spent 23 hours a day in isolation and during this time he copied the Bible. Nelson, who now works as a a law clerk at Uptown people’s Law Center, shows his completed Bible he transcribed onto paper in long hand on Friday, February 24, 2012. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

SPRINGFIELD — When Gov. Pat Quinn announced plans to shut down Illinois’ super-maximum-security prison in Downstate Tamms last week, Brian Nelson flashed back to his dozen years in continuous solitary confinement there for 23 hours a day.


Now paroled and working as a paralegal in Chicago, the Lake County resident said he paced in his Tamms cell for 15 to 20 hours a day until his feet bled, engaged in a 48-day hunger strike to protest conditions and even took to copying down every verse of the Bible, eventually winding up with 4,200 pages of writing.

“It took me a year, nine months and two days,” Nelson said of his boredom-induced copying. “Tamms never leaves my head. I can close my eyes, and I can see that cell. I walk in a room, and I start counting things because that’s one of the coping mechanisms you develop. You count the holes in the door.

“It screws my head up going back there,” he said.

With Quinn’s move, Tamms faces an uncertain future despite being the most modern prison in use in Illinois — and the only one to employ smothering isolation tactics on a wide scale.

Its planned August closure headlined a list of 59 state facilities the governor wants to mothball as “hard but necessary” steps toward confronting Illinois’ unrelenting budget crisis.


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