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2 hospitalized in fourth fight at county jail

Monday, April 24, 2006
Daily Southtown
by William Lee

A gang-related fight in a Cook County Jail division that houses people accused of the most serious crimes left seven inmates injured in the fourth fight this month.
The inmates, housed in Division 11 at the jail, were taken to area hospitals after the fight in the division's dayroom about 6:30 p.m. Saturday, officials said.

About five of the seven received stab injuries in the fight, officials said.

One of the inmates, Jeffrey Iniguez, 33, was listed in critical condition at Mt. Sinai Hospital with a stab wound to the back of the head.

The condition of Antonio Thomas, 34, who suffered a stab wound to the shoulder and remained hospitalized Sunday night, was unavailable.

Division 11 was the scene of another fight between inmates and guards last weekend that left several inmates injured. The day after that incident, an inmate in another division was stabbed in a gang-related quarrel.

Division 11 houses inmates awaiting trial for the most violent crimes, such as murder and sexual assault.

Three maximum security divisions were locked down after Saturday's fight.

Security at the jail has been a major topic after a number of high-profile incidents: the escape of a Matteson man last June, Randy Rencher; a handgun being smuggled into the jail and used to shoot three inmates; and a rash of inmate escape situations, the most notable being the escape of six inmates in February who later were returned without incident.

Despite Saturday's fight and other incidents at the jail, officials there aren't worried that conditions at the West Side facility are any worse.

Jail spokesman Bill Cunningham said gang-related fights are a regular occurrence at the jail, with armed battles occurring at least once a week.

"I don't think there is any kind of factors we can point to that show (these fights) are increasing," Cunningham said.

"There are gang-related crimes in the outside world. When they are behind bars, (inmates) don't usually turn into Cub Scouts," Cunningham said.

Many of the fights, including Saturday's, include the use of homemade knives, called shanks, which are made from anything from toothbrushes to cardboard.

Outgoing sheriff Michael Sheahan has campaigned for hundreds of new jail guards he says will correct low staffing and an uneven inmate-to-guard ratio.

A federal judge has ordered the county to hire 750 jail guards over the next few years to comply with the 1974 settlement of a lawsuit filed by jail inmates.

Contributing: STNG Wire reports



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