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Ending jail STD tests could save county $800,000

Thursday, February 01, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times
by ABDON M. PALLASCH Legal Affairs Reporter

Ending the practice of testing every young man at Cook County Jail for sexually transmitted diseases will save the county $800,000 a year -- plus the cost of hiring lawyers to defend against lawsuits from those who object to the procedure.
Because the men have typically been in custody for up to 24 hours or more, they are dehydrated and often unable to produce a urine sample that would be the most effective gauge.

So instead, a medic inserts a cotton swab into each man's penis for a sample. Men who try to opt out of the procedure are threatened by jail guards with a beating, according to Tom Morrissey, an attorney representing the men in a class-action lawsuit against the county.
The day after Morrissey appeared in federal court this week, trying to convince a judge he needs greater access to the part of the jail where men line up for the procedure, Dr. Robert Simon, the new county health chief, announced he will cut the program to help balance the county budget.
So far, the county has paid the law firm of Querrey & Harrow about $50,000 to defend it in this latest suit over the swabbing. A Querrey & Harrow attorney was also involved in defending the county in the last suit, which the county won last year.
County officials have argued that the testing serves a public good by targeting an at-risk population.



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