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County to hire more than 600 jail guards in bid to end court supervision

Tuesday, March 02, 2010
Chicago Tribune
by Hal Dardick

More than 600 new Cook County Jail guards would be hired by early next year under a plan the County Board approved today, about 18 months after the U.S. Justice Department released a scathing report on jail conditions.

It's part of a plan to end federal court supervision of the county jail in two to four years, officials said. The hiring push is contained in a proposed 60-page order that the Justice Department would file in federal court in an agreement with the county, said Daniel Gallagher, an attorney for Sheriff Tom Dart.

Attorneys for jail detainees in two decades-old class-action suits also have agreed to end their cases if the order is entered, Gallagher said.

The July 2008 Justice Department report concluded a culture existed at Cook County Jail that led to systematic inmate beatings and medical care was so poor that some inmates had died.

Even before the report, however, County Board President Todd Stroger’s administration, some of Dart’s top brass and Health and Hospitals System officials had begun to work with federal authorities to come up with a plan to address the jail’s longstanding problems, said Patrick Driscoll, civil chief for the state’s attorney’s office.

Dart would have to hire 448 new guards by the end of this year, according to the proposed order, obtained by the Tribune. He would have to hire another 174 by the end of March 2011.

The proposed order also carefully delineates other measures aimed at improving conditions. For example, it requires that photographs or video be taken of all injuries allegedly caused by use of force.


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