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:  
   
 
 

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 is the second most populous county in the nation. It is the 19th largest government in the U.S.
   
     
     
     



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

Cook County board to vote on new budget today
Tuesday, November 21, 2017
WGN Channel 9

Preckwinkle agrees to fewer Cook County job cuts; hundreds of layoffs still in works
Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Chicago Tribune

Teamsters Local 700 Files for Temporary Restraining Order Against Cook County Merit Board
Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Special to suffredin.org

How Cook County finally got a new budget
Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Crain's Chicago Business

ONTIVEROS: I think I miss that soda pop tax
Monday, November 20, 2017
Chicago Sun-Times

Budget Cuts Expected For Cook County Public Guardian’s Office
Monday, November 20, 2017
CBS Chicago

Ex-Cook County Board President Todd Stroger says he's running again
Monday, November 20, 2017
Chicago Tribune

More than 300 Cook County employees will lose jobs to balance budget
Monday, November 20, 2017
Chicago Sun-Times

Cook County Jail Population Down 15 Percent After Bond Reforms
Monday, November 20, 2017
WTTW Chicago Tonight

Stroger vs. Preckwinkle: Hide your wallets.
Monday, November 20, 2017
Chicago Tribune

After momentous week, prosecutor Kim Foxx says 'we have to right wrongs'
Monday, November 20, 2017
Chicago Tribune

Police union president slams Foxx, prosecutors after exonerations
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Chicago Sun-Times

MIHALOPOULOS: Will pop-tax anger unseat Preckwinkle, or fizzle out?
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Chicago Sun-Times

After Warning of 'Painful Cuts,' Preckwinkle to Unveil 2018 Budget Amendment
Friday, November 17, 2017
NBC Chicago

Watchdog: Quit stalling on Cook County justice system data
Friday, November 17, 2017
Crain's Chicago Business

The Week in Review: Record Wave of Exonerations Tied to Rogue Cop
Friday, November 17, 2017
WTTW Chicago Tonight

Preckwinkle, some commissioners say enough votes for amended budget
Friday, November 17, 2017
Chicago Sun-Times

Preckwinkle: Nothing Pleasant About Hundreds Of Layoffs
Friday, November 17, 2017
CBS Chicago

Cook County commissioners get behind Preckwinkle's budget cuts
Friday, November 17, 2017
Chicago Tribune

Chuy Garcia Sole Cook County Commissioner Iffy on Budget
Friday, November 17, 2017
WTTW Chicago Tonight

all news items

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