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Suit alleges Cook County inmates forced to sleep on floor

Friday, December 18, 2009
Chicago Sun-Times
by Sun Times Media Wire

Several inmates from the Cook County Jail filed a class-action lawsuit Friday against Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and former Sheriff Michael Sheahan after they were allegedly forced to sleep on the floor of the jail despite a federate mandate barring such practices.

Derrick Fils, Cleveland Cain and Carl Stuckey filed the suit in U.S. District Court Friday, on behalf of "all other individuals who had been and presently are inmates of Cook County Jail" whose rights were allegedly violated in the prison, the suit claims.

Between 1997 and 2009, the suit claims the three men--along with more than 50 others--were forced to sleep on the floor of the jail. The suit also claims the sheriff's office failed to utilize a vacant space in the prison, which is located at 26th Street and California Avenue.

Cook County Sheriff's Dept. spokesman Steve Patterson said prisons have been barred from forcing inmates to sleep on the floor since 1985 or 1986, when the Duran Consent Decree was signed into law. The decree prohibits prisons from forcing inmates to share a bed or forcing them to sleep on the floor.

The John Howard Association, a non-profit organization that oversees prison conditions, monitors the Cook County Jail to assure the rights of inmates are not violated, Patterson said.

"There is a federal consent decree overseen by an outside entity making sure [sleeping on the floor] doesn't happen," Patterson said.

The suit claims the jail was awarded up to $3 million between 1996 and 2007 for maintenance on an unused facility that is part of the jail at 26th and California, but that the space remains unused.

The two-count suit alleges violation of civil rights, but does not mention damages.

The inmates’ lawyer did not return a call for comment Friday afternoon.



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