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An open letter to Senator Richard Durbin

June 14, 2022

Dear Senator Richard Durbin,

We write on behalf of our clients, Sue and Jeff Phillips, parents of Matthew Phillips. We thank and commend you for your letter of June 1, 2022, to the Inspector General of the Department of Justice requesting an investigation into the spate of deaths at the U.S. Penitentiary Thomson in Illinois, including the death of Matt in 2020.

Matt, who was Jewish and had a Star of David tattoo, was the repeated victim of attacks in prison by members of the Aryan Brotherhood. After an attack in early 2019, Matt filed a grievance with the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), explaining he believed prison guards violated BOP policies by sending him into the recreation yard with known members of the Aryan Brotherhood. Later that same year, Matt was again placed in a recreation yard with a member of the Aryan Brotherhood, and Matt was attacked. Yet again, on March 2, 2020, BOP guards put Matt into a recreation yard with members of the Aryan Brotherhood. This time, Matt was attacked and beaten about the head to the point of unconsciousness. Matt was taken to a small nearby hospital, where the doctors recommended “life flighting” Matt by helicopter to a tertiary hospital. The BOP officials overrode the doctors' recommendation, sending Matt instead in an ambulance for the 90-mile drive, thereby delaying immediate and potentially life-saving medical care. Matt later died from those traumatic and hate-fueled injuries.

We are civil rights lawyers and proudly represent Sue and Jeff in a federal lawsuit against the BOP pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (1:22-cv-1048). The lawsuit seeks answers and accountability—and to prevent this kind of unnecessary tragedy from befalling another family. No parent should have to bury their child. Matt had a promising future after his incarceration, and he should be alive today. If he were, he'd be out of prison now and rejoined with his family and community, having completed his term.

We sincerely appreciate your efforts to obtain justice for Matt and his family and would welcome the opportunity to speak with you or your staff about this matter.


Antonio Romanucci   Romanucci & Blandin, LLC

Jeremy Tor   Spangenberg, Shibley & Liber, LLP

Nicholas DiCello   Spangenberg, Shibley &Liber, LLP

Cc: Senator Tammy Duckworth

Representative Cheri Bustos

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