Suffredin- An Advocate for All of Us  
 

Accountability
Forest Preserves
Public Safety
Cook County Budget
Forest Pres. Budget
Property Tax Appeal
Health & Hospitals
Land Bank Authority
Policy Resolutions
Unsung Heroine

 

   
 
   
   
 
   
     
  Office phone numbers:  
   
 
 

The Cook County Code of Ordinances are the current laws of Cook County.

   
 

Search current and proposed Cook County Legislation in Larry's exclusive legislative library.

   
  The Cook County Law Library is the second largest County law library in the nation.
   
     
     
     



Union joins the call for jail guard hirings
200 sought despite tight Cook budget

Monday, September 06, 2004
Chicago Tribune
by Hal Dardick

With injuries to Cook County Jail guards on the rise and with watchdog groups saying a chronic guard shortage is growing worse, the union representing rank-and-file correctional officers has joined a chorus of organizations calling for the county to hire more guards.

That chorus includes the outside watchdogs, Sheriff Michael Sheahan and a federal judge overseeing a 22-year-old consent decree on jail overcrowding. But County Board President John Stroger, who proposes the county budget, has yet to sing the same tune.

Last year, Sheahan took away Stroger's five-man security detail after Stroger refused the sheriff's request to hire more guards.

That history looms over Sheahan's recent informal request for 200 new guard positions in the 2005 budget, which Paul O'Grady, Sheahan's attorney, said was rejected by Stroger because of an anticipated tight budget in the coming year.

That could signal a second consecutive annual budget battle. But this year's could be refereed in part by a powerful outside influence, U.S. District Judge George Marovich.

After hearing about Stroger's rejection last month at a consent decree hearing, Marovich told all parties to the decree to come up with a plan before November to hire more guards.

"The county budget for fiscal 2005 is currently being prepared with every option under consideration," Stroger spokesman John Gibson said last week. "We will talk with the sheriff and others charged with responsibility for law enforcement to come to a solution."

The Metropolitan Alliance of Police, which represents more than 2,400 rank-and-file jail guards, contended in a recent statement that the County Jail "has a higher inmate-to-officer ratio than any other correctional facility in a major U.S. city."

"With these marginal-at-best staffing levels, professionalism is impossible to maintain and the risk of injuries to officers increases," said the statement, made in a letter to the Tribune by T. Steven Calcaterra, an attorney for the alliance.

Calcaterra said the Corrections Yearbook, put out by the Criminal Justice Institute Inc., determined that the jail had 4.58 inmates for every guard, compared with 1.69 in New York, 3.1 in Houston, 3.86 in Miami and 4.46 in Los Angeles.

But Charles Fasano, director of the prisons and jails program at the John Howard Association, a non-profit group monitoring the 1982 consent decree overseen by Marovich, cautioned that the numbers by themselves don't tell the whole story.

The question to ask is, "How many guards are really in the business of guarding inmates?" he said.

Nevertheless, his organization's most recent report on jail overcrowding notes that the number of guards has remained the same since December 1999. The report says the jail has less staff than required in the decree and suggested by "professional correctional standards."

Though the report does not link the guard shortage and staff injuries, it does note that from 1991 to 1998, jail staff injuries averaged fewer than 10 a month. Injuries rose after that every year but 2001, to the current average of more than 30 a month.

"I believe there's a correlation ... that relates directly to the staffing problem we have," Calcaterra said.

Sheahan spokesman Bill Cunningham agreed: "We believe it's related to understaffing and overpopulation."

According to the John Howard report, officials are making progress in addressing overcrowding, the original concern raised in the 1974 class-action suit filed by pretrial jail detainees that gave rise to the 1982 decree.

The attorneys for the plaintiffs in that case gave the most attention to the jail guard shortage in their response last month to the John Howard report.

"It's the biggest concern and it's the most pervasive concern," said Diane Redleaf, an attorney for the plaintiffs. "It seems like you can't deal with overcrowding until you deal with the staffing issue because you don't have the staff to open new units."

Since 1999, the last time the number of guards was increased, the average daily population of the jail has increased by nearly 1,100 people to about 10,571, the response states. If the jail had the same inmate-to-staff ratio as it did in 1996, when the number of staff injuries was five times lower, it would have 413 more correctional officers, it states.

According to the response, the shortage has forced the virtual lockdown of inmates under protective custody and has led to less recreation time, library visits, phone access and grievance responses for all inmates.

Though jail officials hope to open a new 150-bed pre-release drug treatment center later this year that officials believe will further alleviate crowding, they would need to staff that with 50 officers. Marovich suggested that hiring the 50 needed for the center would be the bare minimum he would accept.

Both the John Howard report and the response also noted that because of budget constraints, the sheriff's one-time annual $2 million training budget, which allowed the sheriff to immediately fill guard vacancies, was eliminated in 2002.

"We're asking them to restore the training budget," Fasano said.

Currently, 51 of the 2,426 budget-authorized jail guards, which doesn't include 290 supervisors, are in training, Cunningham said. An additional 42 are out because they were injured on duty, he said.




Recent Headlines

Nearly a century after a brutal murder, Chicagoís only lynching victim gets memorial
Thursday, March 21, 2019
The Grio

County harassment survey shows mixed faith in reporting system
Thursday, March 21, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Recovery Behind Bars: Cook County Jailís Opioid Treatment Program
Wednesday, March 20, 2019
Medill Reports

Judge: Labor unions don't owe non-union state workers refunds, despite unconstitutional fees
Wednesday, March 20, 2019
Cook County record

The language of justice: Court interpreters fight for client rights and their rights in Cook County
Tuesday, March 19, 2019
Medill Reports

Cook County General Hospital's $90-Million Redevelopment Saves a Chicago Icon
Tuesday, March 19, 2019
Engineering News Rec ord

Preckwinkle sends out harassment survey to staff after harassment controversy in her office
Tuesday, March 19, 2019
Chicago Tribune

Illinois Land Title Association Granted Summary Judgment in Case against Cook County Recorder of Deeds
Sunday, March 17, 2019
Illinois State Bar Association

Grand Jury Indicts Debt Collector of Bribing Cook County Clerk Dorothy Brown
Friday, March 15, 2019
WBBM Chicago

Indictment: Cook County's hired debt collector charged with bribing county officials to secure county contract
Friday, March 15, 2019
Cook County record

Karen Chavers Honored as 2019 Unsung Heroine
Thursday, March 14, 2019
Special to suffredin.org

Pappas to announce deadline for Cook County property owners to pay late taxes
Wednesday, March 13, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Courts Cause Confusion For Woman Trying To Resolve Her Case
Wednesday, March 13, 2019
CBS Chicago

Census changes raise fears of Illinois undercounting
Monday, March 11, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Cook County Sheriff Warns of Apple Phone Scam
Monday, March 11, 2019
WTTW News

Caller poses as Apple to get victims personal info in scam targeting Cook County residents
Monday, March 11, 2019
WGN Chicago

Should Young Adults Be Sent To Juvenile Courts?
Sunday, March 10, 2019
NPR Radio

Cook County Jail hires 2nd consecutive mental health professional as warden
Wednesday, March 06, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Lawsuit: Sheriff jailed dozens because of faulty electronic monitoring devices
Monday, March 04, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Woman dies while in custody at Cook County Jail
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Fox 32

all news items

Paid for by Larry Suffredin and not at taxpayer expense. A Haymarket Production.
^ TOP