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Cook County Jail placed on lockdown due to absent workers

Sunday, May 14, 2017
Chicago Tribune
by Rosemary Regina Sobol

For the second Mother’s Day in as many years, Cook County Jail has been placed on lockdown after 32 percent of workers on the day shift did not show up for work Sunday.

Of the workers assigned to the 7 a.m.-3 p.m. shift, 206 failed to show up to work, said Cara Smith, a spokeswoman for the sheriff.

Eighty-six of them called off sick, and 120 others invoked the Family Medical Leave Act.

“It’s the perfect storm of situations: It’s Mother’s Day and there is beautiful weather,’’ Smith said. “Unfortunately, it’s devastating to the people who do come to work and for the taxpayers.’'

Additionally, Smith said that as of about 3 p.m. Sunday, about 25 percent of staff for the second shift of the day also had called in sick.

Jail detainees were still allowed to have visitors and to go about their essential activities, such as those involving health or court dates, but the entire jail was placed on lockdown, Smith said. Jail programs for the detainees were also canceled.

The “extraordinary" number of absent workers puts additional pressure on the men and women of the sheriff's office who come to work as scheduled, a statement from the office said.

“We continue to find ways to curb the absenteeism, but we have very few tools in the toolbox,'' Smith said.

Similar incidents have occurred in the past, including in January 2016 and on May 8, 2016, Mother's Day, when about 20 percent of workers called in.

During lockdowns, which affect all 10 divisions of the jail, inmates' movements are limited because not enough officers are around to ensure their safety and the officers' safety, the sheriff's office said.

A representative of the union that represents the staffers was not immediately available.



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