CHICAGO (AP) — Several inmates have sued the Illinois Department of Corrections over the suspension of a Stateville Correctional Center debate class.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday in Cook County Circuit Court contends the inmates’ First Amendment rights to free speech were violated with the decision to shut down a debate team at the prison outside Chicago.

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The lawsuit names IDOC Acting Director John Baldwin, Assistant Director Gladyse Taylor and three other employees as defendants. In March 2018, the group held a debate on the topic of parole, during which the inmates discussed policy proposals. The inmates allege the debate class was suspended a short time later.

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Attorney Brad Thomson says the fact the inmates were effectively using their right to advocate to legislators for parole angered certain Corrections Department officials.

A Corrections Department spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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