Saturday, October 1, 2022
Home ILLINOIS Cook County poised to settle lawsuit for $31 million over jail inmates...

Cook County poised to settle lawsuit for $31 million over jail inmates exposing themselves to and groping female officers and other workers

Hundreds of female employees of the Cook County Jail and courts who alleged leaders did not do enough to stop male detainees from exposing themselves, masturbating and threatening them are in line for a county settlement worth a total of $31 million.

The settlement is up for a vote in Cook County’s Finance Committee Wednesday. If it passes there, it will move to the County Board on Thursday.

A group of female correctional officers, rehab workers, law librarians and medical personnel who worked at the Cook County Jail first filed suit in 2017, alleging they were “chronically subjected to a sexually hostile work environment” because male detainees “routinely expose their genitalia … brazenly masturbate in front of them … grope and grab them; subject them to sexually degrading insults and slurs; and threaten them with sexual violence.”

The initial suit said a group of detainees formed the “Savage Life” gang with a primary objective of “orchestrat(ing) sexually threatening behavior” toward female workers.

They alleged the sheriff had failed to take steps to stop or correct it, and it had made the “terms and conditions of employment” for women different than for men who work in those same titles.

“The damages include severe mental anguish and other emotional distress; headaches, stomach upset, and other physical symptoms of emotional distress; nightmares; sexual dysfunction; fear and anguish when going to work; burnout; depletion of sick leave; and fear of reprimand for pursuing their complaints,” the suit said.

Hundreds of women sought to join the suit. As of Sept. 1, that list stood at 561. All but one had accepted their settlement offers, according to court records.

Workers in the county public defenders’ office brought a similar suit in 2017 related to the behavior of detainees in the crowded lockups behind courtrooms at the Leighton Criminal Court Building and other courthouses throughout the county. That suit settled in 2020 for $14 million.

Sign up for The Spin to get the top stories in politics delivered to your inbox weekday afternoons.

Attorneys representing the sheriff’s office in early court filings acknowledged there were more than 350 reported incidents of detainees exposing themselves or masturbating in 2016, and nearly 120 in the first three months of 2017.

In an emailed statement sent Monday, a spokesman for Sheriff Tom Dart said the office was prepared for trial but that the county and its insurance carrier wanted to avoid further costs and agreed to settle. Spokesman Matthew Walberg said the office has been “incredibly aggressive in its efforts to stop such outrageous behavior and support correctional staff,” but that “too often people charged with serious and violent crimes are intent on causing harm when in custody.”

Dart’s office “implemented innovative and comprehensive measures to stop individuals in custody who are intent on masturbating ­— or exposing themselves — to staff,” the statement continued, including “specialized jumpsuits, new cuffing procedures, increased disciplinary consequences, filing new criminal charges against offenders, and many unsuccessful efforts to pass state laws that would result in meaningful consequences for this despicable behavior.”

“The sheriff’s office has also created the office of compliance to ensure continued enforcement of the policies and procedures we have put in place to reduce this behavior,” Walberg said. The office will also retain “the services of a retired federal judge who will be available to help resolve concerns, if any, from employees regarding the office’s efforts,” he said.

Afternoon Briefing


Chicago Tribune editors’ top story picks, delivered to your inbox each afternoon.

Commissioners will be voting on $2.3 million of the total $31 million amount this week. That $2.3 million will be paid from a self-insurance fund the county maintains for employee health and life insurance, unemployment and workers’ compensation, and other liabilities. The balance will be covered by outside insurance designed to cover costs that rise above the county’s budgeted self-insurance amount, a county finance spokesman said.

A lawyer for the women who sued said the county agreed to reforms as well as monetary damages.

“The 561 women in this case who have fought so long and so hard to be treated with dignity and be allowed to work in an environment free of this type of pernicious sexual harassment are relieved more than anything else that finally, after five long years, the CCSO has agreed to an array of remedial measures, under outside oversight, to stop this behavior and ensure a safe work environment moving forward, and to compensate these women monetarily for the harm caused to them,” said the statement sent by one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Shelly Kulwin from the law firm Kulwin, Masciopinto & Kulwin.

“These same women only hope that the CCSO continues to stand by these measures and does not abandon enforcement of them in the days, weeks, months and years ahead. Lastly, we disagree in the strongest terms that the CCSO effectively protected our clients prior to and during the pendency of this lawsuit,” Kulwin said.

In response, Walberg pushed back against the implication that reforms had been delayed. “The sheriff’s office devised on its own and implemented nearly all of these agreed measures to try to prevent this criminal behavior before this lawsuit was filed, and the office will continue to work to find ways to protect staff with or without this court settlement.”

Also scheduled for a vote this week: a $9.75 million settlement to the estate of Shania Williams and her baby daughter. According to county finance documents, Williams’ estate alleged negligence against the county’s Stroger Hospital for wrongful death involving a failure to treat preeclampsia and to deliver her baby on time.

[email protected]

Source link


Chicagoans affected by Hurricane Ian tell their stories; how you can help

Hurricane Ian flooded much of southwest Florida with heavy storm surges Wednesday before making landfall as a Category 4 storm that night. As...

Man acquitted of murder in 2020 fatal stabbing outside Richard’s Bar in West Town

A man was acquitted of first-degree murder Wednesday in a 2020 case where he’d been accused of fatally stabbing a man outside Richard’s...

The rise of a reputed gang kingpin: How a West Side drug-related killing 2 decades ago has taken center stage in federal court

When Ernest Moore was gunned down on the West Side two days before Christmas in 2002, a Chicago police evidence technician with a...


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

Game of the Week: Mars at Highlands

Game of the Week: Mars at Highlands Updated: 12:08 AM EDT Oct...

How to choose the right benefits provider for your company

Benefits are crucial to your company. They help you retain employees, improve team morale and build a culture that supports your mission. So,...

Did the Abbott-O’Rourke Debate Change Anything?

The conventional wisdom among the political observer types in Texas about...

The Detroit News

This content is only available to subscribers.Get unlimited digital access.$1 for 6 months.Your subscription supports:Unlimited access to subscriber only articles on desktop, tablet...

Recent Comments