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Judge: Cook jail detainees accused of aggressive sexual behavior must be handcuffed on court visits

Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Chicago Tribune
by Megan Crepeau,

A federal judge has ordered that Cook County Jail detainees with reported incidents of public indecency must be handcuffed during court appearances and wear special jumpsuits to prohibit them from misbehaving.

Three lawsuits have been filed in recent weeks that allege detainees’ aggressive sexual behavior in jail and in courtroom lockups created a hostile work environment for female assistant public defenders and correctional officers.

In two separate orders Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly, who is overseeing the lawsuits, ruled that detainees with reports of such behavior must be handcuffed while taken from the jail to the courtroom and back again, unless ordered otherwise by a judge.

Both the sheriff’s and the public defender’s offices agreed to the conditions — which will remain in effect at least until a preliminary injunction hearing can be held, by January at the earliest.

Kennelly also ordered that the sheriff's office must provide special jumpsuits to offenders that limit their access to the groin area. Detainees must wear the jumpsuits after the first reported incident of sexual misconduct, the judge said. If the sheriff’s office does not have enough jumpsuits, they must obtain more, he ruled.

The sheriff’s office must also provide personnel in courtroom lockups to deter the behavior, Kennelly ruled.

In October, the public defender’s office had limited its attorneys access to the lockup areas to prevent further problems, but the office withdrew that directive earlier this month, court records show.

Public Defender Amy Campanelli told the Tribune on Wednesday she supports the conditions set out by Kennelly.

“I’m hopeful that we will be able to keep these incidents down, if not altogether eliminate them,” she said.

Cara Smith, chief policy officer for Sheriff Tom Dart, said the conditions were the result of extensive negotiation with everyone involved.

“The order … reflects an agreement among the parties by which our office will continue to do what we have been doing to protect our staff and others from the despicable behavior by some detainees in our custody,” Smith wrote in a statement to the Tribune.

The lawsuits filed earlier this month alleged authorities had not done enough to stop the detainees from exposing themselves, openly masturbating and threatening female employees.

The correctional officers' lawsuit alleged that the conduct was “so severe and pervasive and so consistently traumatizing as to make the jail an objectively abusive and hostile workplace for women."

A lawsuit filed on behalf of female assistant public defenders made similar claims, painting a graphic picture of the atmosphere in the courtroom lockups and in two of the jail’s maximum-security divisions.

Chicago Tribune’s Jason Meisner contributed.

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