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Lawsuit Alleges 'Sadistic Culture Of Brutality And Violence' At Cook County Jail

By Chuck Sudo in News on Feb 27, 2014 10:50PM

Image Credit: Brian Bochenek

Attorneys with Northwestern University’s MacArthur Justice Center filed a lawsuit in federal court Thursday alleging conditions at Cook County Jail put inmates “under a constant risk of life-threatening violence.” The class-action lawsuit, which Chicagoist has included below, named Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Sheriff Tom Dart, the County Board of Commissioners and other officials as defendants.

Over 100 inmates provided statements for the lawsuit which alleges the “violence and brutality” within its walls and of failing to protect inmates from it. “It is a systemic problem that has remained unchecked at the highest levels of Cook County government,” the suit reads. “The defendants have had actual knowledge of this pattern of violence for years - if not decades."

The MacArthur Foundation’s investigation that led to the lawsuit began 18 months ago when lawyers at the Jail working on an unrelated suit about parolees heard stories of the violence there and were shocked into action. Attorney David Shapiro told the Tribune the MacArthur Center and the Bluhm Legal Clinic began filing Freedom of Information Act requests seeking disciplinary histories, grievances and other records pertaining to violence in the Jail. They obtained signed declarations from 88 inmates who said they were either victims of or witnesses to abuse.

Dart publicly decried the conditions and overcrowding at Cook County Jail before. Last year Dart said the population at the Jail exceeded 10,000 people some days and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decision to close several neighborhood mental health clinics hasn’t helped matters. Dart also attributed the increased Jail population to an increase in arrests, inmates spending longer time in jail as their cases work their way through the court system and a drop in the number of inmates released on electronic monitoring.

Class Action Lawsuit Alleging Horrific Conditions At Cook County Jail by Chicagoist