U.S. Census Bureau / Demographics
TerraServer / Aerial Photo
Tamms, IL / Community Profile / Current News
Prison Talk / Illinois Forum

{{ Tamms Correctional Center }}

Opened: June 1995
Capacity: 700
Level 1: Maximum-Security Adult Male
Level 7: Low Minimum-Security Male
Average Daily Population: 454
Total Average Daily Population: 454
Average Age: 36
Average Annual Cost Per Inmate: $58,994.00

Business Mail:
200 East Supermax Road
P.O. Box 400
Tamms, IL 62988
Phone: (618) 747-2042

Inmate Mail:
200 East Supermax Road
P.O. Box 2000
Tamms, IL 62988

Tamms Correctional Center consists of a 200-bed Minimum-Security Unit (MSU) and a 500-bed closed maximum-security facility (CMAX). The facility is situated on 236 acres of land just north of Tamms on Route 127 in Alexander County. The MSU, which opened in 1995, provides work crews to numerous locations in southern Illinois and also serves as a work cadre for the CMAX facility. The CMAX facility, which opened in March 1998, has been designated to house the department's most disruptive, violent and problematic inmates. Inmates approved for placement at CMAX have demonstrated an inability or unwillingness to conform to the requirements of a general population prison. Inmates transferred to CMAX are required to stay for a minimum, pre-determined length of time. Positive behavior, or a change in attitude to conform to stated rules and regulations, is considered in determining when an inmate returns to a general population environment.


CMAX houses some of the most litigious inmates in the department's custody. The staff at Tamms has met the challenge of housing these inmates by ensuring policies and procedures are consistently followed. Staff's efforts of enforcing written policies have ensured consistent administration of programs and services resulting in significant success in defending CMAX in inmate litigation.

The Early Retirement Incentive caused a significant reduction in staffing at CMAX and MSU. Due to the CMAX conditions of confinement, no inmate work details are allowed in any of the living units. This creates a very labor-intensive work environment for staff. All sanitation duties in the CMAX housing units are performed by staff and all inmate movement requires handling of the inmate in full restraints with a minimum escort ratio of 2:1 at all times and 3:1 for high security escorts. Even with staffing numbers at an all-time low, Tamms employees have pulled together and truly are doing more with less.

In southern Illinois, 124 children have benefited from the generosity and caring of many Tamms Correctional Center employees. The Tamms staff participated in a toy drive from Oct. 29 through Dec. 6, 2002. The Alexander County Department of Children and Family Services office provided a list of needy children and staff participated by donating toys and gifts to the children.

Three staff also took the polar plunge on March 1 at Rend Lake to benefit the Special Olympics. Staff pledged more than $700 during this event for the three brave employees who took the polar plunge.

Security Initiatives

A closed maximum-prison such as Tamms can generally be described to house the worst of the worst behavioral problems of the department. Staffing ratios are enhanced to provide full restraint escorts with staff to inmate ratio of 2:1 and 3:1 on several occasions. Inside the confines of CMAX, elevated security areas are also defined to permit no more than six inmates on each living area. The physical design by permanently attached service delivery boxes, non-destructible light fixtures, flush control valves and clear Lexan cell front coverings reduce the inmates' ability to vent their anger toward staff and carry out felonious activity. All inmates assigned to these areas are reviewed on a quarterly basis and upon their demonstrating significantly improved behavioral traits, they graduate into other living units with increased privileges.

To ensure that maximum efficiency of overall operations is obtained, system checks of departmental and facility procedures are periodically conducted with frequencies that far exceed the minimum standard established by the department. In addition, several staff members are cross-trained in their responsibility to understand others' duties in relation to their function in the facility command post structure during critical incidents. As a result of the extensive cross training received, key staff has displayed the ability to fully understand and resolve actual incidents that occur in a professional manner.

Tactical operations remain a significant component of the center's success. Daily staffing of any given shift's operation requires a cell extraction team of six members to be on duty. All team members are highly trained and may be activated to gain compliance of unruly inmates or perform other tactical operations. Most often the unit's mere presence at the inmate's cell front via marching in an organized professional manner causes the inmate to comply with lawful orders avoiding the use of chemical agents or force.

Tamms staff is continuing the effort to prevent drugs and other contraband from entering the institution. With the implementation of the Drug Interdiction Policy, Tamms is using all means available to accomplish this goal. A monthly schedule for the use of the ION Scanner has been implemented. The ION Scanner is used on inmate visitors, vehicles, volunteers, vendors, contract employees, inmates and inmate property to detect small traces of illegal drugs. An aggressive inmate drug testing policy is also in place. All CMAX inmates were drug tested during the FY 2003 with zero positive findings.

All ports of entry into Tamms Correctional Center are closely scrutinized. All mail, packages, parcels and inmate commissary are searched first by using a fluoroscope machine, then a physical and visual inspection by staff. Inmate legal mail is delivered by a select group of specially trained staff. Biohazard procedures for the mailroom have been put in place. Upon opening mail in the mailroom, if any suspicious powders, spills or aerosols are emitted, the mailroom staff will activate the institutional procedure for this emergency. A comprehensive procedure has also been established and implemented for biological and terrorist threats. A secondary mailroom has been established for opening confidential mail, such as the warden's, personnel and business office.

{ Tamms Misc }

"Rights of Mentally Ill Prisoners at Tamms" / The MacArthur Justice Center

"Tamms Revisited: Super-Max Confinement In Illinois" / John Howard Association of Illinois (Word Document)

{ Prison Resources }



Prison Talk >> Prisoner Family Support, Information & Assistance >> General Forums

Illinois Forum >> Illinois Prison Profiles / Illinois News & Events / Illinois DOC - What You Need to Know / Illinois Prison Visitation / Illinois Prison Phones, Packages & Mail / Illinois Prisons Lockdown Status Watch


"The Color and Geography of Prison Growth in Illinois" / by Paul Street
"Starve the Racist Prison Beast" / by Paul Street
"Race, Place, and the Perils of Prisonomics" / by Paul Street
"The Political Consequences Of Racist Felony Disenfranchisement" / by Paul Street
"Census dollars bring bounty to prison towns" / The Chicago Reporter
"Prisons and Southern Illinois" / Illinois Labor Market Review
"Throughout Southern Illinois: Mines Move Out as Prisons Move In" / Illinois Labor Market Review
"Hard Time" / Illinois Issues
"Scrutinizing the Supermax" / SIUC Perspectives
"A SORRY EXCUSE FOR A DECENT LIVING: How Rural Illinois Has Staked its Revival on Prison Growth" / The Next American City
"Drugs and Disparity: The Racial Impact of Illinois' Practice of Transferring Young Drug Offenders to Adult Court"
"Jail Overcrowding and Understaffing" / Chicago Tribune
"Maximum Insecurity: Illinois Prisons in Crisis" / AFSCME Council 31 / January 2006
"Failing Grade: The decline in educational opportunities for Illinois prison inmates" / Campaign for Responsible Priorities
Chicago Urban League / Research & Planning Department
"The Vicious Circle: Race, Prison, Jobs, and Community in Chicago, Illinois and the Nation" / Chicago Urban League
"A Portrait of Prisoner Reentry in Illinois" / The Justice Policy Center

{ Prison Index }