Illinois Correctional Center Workers’ Comp Cases Pile Up

June 15, 2011

New workers’ compensation claims have continued to pile up this year at Menard Correctional Center despite ongoing probes by federal authorities, a newspaper reported Sunday.

According to the Belleville News-Democrat, which has published a series of reports based on its own probe, 59 new claims have been filed since January by employees at the southern Illinois prison.

Some claims involve alleged assaults by prisoners, but almost half allege repetitive strain injuries similar to previous cases under investigation, the News-Democrat reported.

Five of the new cases involve repetitive foot strain workers say is caused by walking or standing on the prison’s concrete and cement floors, the newspaper said.

In previous reports, the paper said Menard staffers claimed nearly $10 million since January 2008 through workers’ compensation. Many claims were for carpal tunnel syndrome from locking and unlocking doors. The condition can cause pain and numbness in the hands and wrists.

But the newspaper recently reported that its probe had discovered that an expert report commissioned by the state said that locking and unlocking prison cells didn’t cause repetitive strain injuries in guards.

Illinois law doesn’t require employees to prove that a work condition caused an injury to collect, only that it could have caused an injury.

Earlier this month, the Illinois Legislature passed workers’ compensation overhaul legislation limiting payments for carpal tunnel syndrome. If Gov. Pat Quinn signs it, the measure will take effect Sept. 1.

According to the newspaper, the total for Menard workers’ comp claims for repetitive trauma and other injuries is almost four times higher than at Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet. The prisons each house about 3,500 inmates.

The newspaper said repetitive injury cases since 2008 at Menard now total at least 260.

The Illinois Department of Insurance and a federal grand jury are both investigating Menard workers’ comp claims, the newspaper said.

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