Suffredin- Changing County Government  
 

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:  
   
 
 

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

   
 

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

   
  Cook County has the largest unified trial court system in the world, disposing over 6 million cases in 1990 alone.
   
     
     
     



Female jail guards join public defenders in suing over sexual harassment by detainees

Friday, November 10, 2017
Chicago Tribune
by Megan Crepeau,

Female Cook County correctional officers have filed a federal lawsuit that alleges the sheriff has tolerated aggressive sexual harassment from male detainees at the county jail.

The litigation comes just days after a lawsuit from female Cook County assistant public defenders alleged similar misconduct by detainees in lockups at courthouses around the county as well as in two maximum-security divisions at the jail.

Both lawsuits allege authorities have not done enough to stop the detainees from exposing themselves, openly masturbating and threatening female employees.

The correctional officers’ lawsuit alleged that their work environment “is permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule and insult so severe and pervasive and so consistently traumatizing as to make the jail an objectively abusive and hostile workplace for women.”

The proposed class-action suit, filed Friday, seeks unspecified monetary damages and a court order forcing Sheriff Tom Dart to take effective action to limit the harassment. The suit also asks that a judge appoint an independent monitor to oversee attempts by the sheriff’s office to stop the behavior.

“It is horrendous what (the officers) face,” Marni Willenson, one of the attorneys for the correctional officers, told the Chicago Tribune on Friday. “It’s totally intolerable, and the suggestion that nothing can be done about it is outrageous. That’s not the case. This is not how correctional institutions have to be run.”

Cara Smith, chief policy officer at the sheriff’s office, said her office continues to try to ensure a safe environment for its employees.

“We are going to continue to do all we can to address this criminal behavior by those in our custody,” she said. “The reality is that the tools we have to address this … are really insufficient.”

The lawsuit, though, alleged that other jails and prisons isolate repeat offenders, physically restrain them and train guards to respond effectively, among other measures.

The lawsuit names three female correctional officers, two of whom are currently assigned to an all-male maximum-security division, Smith confirmed. The third works in a case review unit and has no contact with detainees, Smith said.

Willenson said, however, that woman worked in Division 9, another all-male maximum-security unit, for three months last year.

Female jail guards approached attorneys with complaints more than two years ago, according to Willenson.

The same three women who brought Friday’s lawsuit had first raised the allegations in complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in early 2016. Last month, the agency did not take further action but notified the women of their right to sue — a common course of events in such situations, Willenson said.

The lawsuit alleged that female correctional officers have been discouraged from reporting the incidents or taking other action and that higher-ups have often been dismissive of their complaints.

Male supervisors have told women who complained about the sexual misconduct that it’s “just part of the job,” that they “signed up for” the behavior, “if you don’t like it, leave,” or “they’re locked up, what do you expect?” the suit alleged.

If true, such responses are “exceptionally unfortunate,” Smith said.

Smith said her office will continue to push for legislation that would upgrade public indecency in a correctional facility to a felony, a step she said would help deter sexual misconduct by detainees.

In addition, some detainees are required to wear special jumpsuits that restrict access to the groin area, Smith said.

But ultimately, Smith said, detainees linger in jail for too long awaiting trial, a problem for the entire criminal justice system and not one Dart can resolve on his own.

“Unfortunately, this behavior is not anything new,” she said. “Unfortunately, it’s a problem that all correctional environments address.”

But, Willenson said, the environment at Cook County Jail is exceptionally toxic.

“You can walk into many other institutions and find female officers working there without being assaulted, groped, harassed or subjected to constant indecent exposure,” she said. “… You just couldn’t fathom that this could be allowed to occur.”

mcrepeau@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @crepeau



Recent Headlines

Preteens out of detention before trial under new ordinance
Friday, September 14, 2018
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin

Cook County Board bars detention of youth under 13 years old
Thursday, September 13, 2018
Injustice Watch

Preteens accused of crimes won't be locked up at Cook County juvenile center
Thursday, September 13, 2018
Chicago Sun-Times

Slowik: Cook County offers residents last chance to comment on strategic plan
Thursday, September 13, 2018
Daily Southtown

Settlement over Cook County's 2007 decision to cut inmates' dental care will cost nearly $5.3 million
Wednesday, September 12, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Anti-patronage Shakman pact requiring federal oversight of Cook County hiring, firing to end
Friday, August 31, 2018
Chicago Tribune

1st District upholds merit board in firing of deputy
Thursday, August 30, 2018
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin

Neighborhood program helps Cook County residents buy homes
Sunday, August 26, 2018
Chicago Sun-Times

Judge upholds Cook County firearm, ammunition taxes
Thursday, August 23, 2018
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin

Editorial: E-filing should make Cook County courts more accessible. It doesn't
Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Cook County tax incentive could pave way for Wingstop, Dunkin' Donuts on Elgin's Summit Street
Tuesday, August 21, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Editorial: What happened to the elk?
Friday, August 10, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Wells Fargo to offer $15,000 grants to potential Cook County homebuyers
Thursday, August 09, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Suit alleges Cook County detainees secretly monitored in bathrooms in holding cells at courthouses
Wednesday, August 08, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Half the elk at Busse Woods died last year, and officials aren’t sure why
Tuesday, August 07, 2018
Chicago Tribune

A letter from Dr. Jay Shannon regarding gun violence and Stroger Hospital
Tuesday, August 07, 2018
Special to suffredin.org

As Evanston adapts to minimum wage hike, nearby towns say they have no plan to join in
Tuesday, August 07, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Lawsuit could blast a $250 million hole in county budget
Monday, August 06, 2018
Crain's Chicago Business

Pappas: Automatic refunds of $19.5 million going to 53,000 homeowners because of property tax cuts
Monday, August 06, 2018
Special to suffredin.org

Thousands of Cook County homeowners to receive property tax refunds
Monday, August 06, 2018
Chicago Sun-Times

all news items

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