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Cook County Board approves $1.5 million settlement in 2013 jail beating case

Friday, February 22, 2019
Chicago Tribune
by Gregory Pratt

Cook County Board approves $1.5 million settlement in 2013 jail beating case

Cook County commissioners approved a $1.5 million settlement in a lawsuit brought against the county over a 2013 jail beating.

The lawsuit stemmed from a 2010 arrest in which a woman diagnosed with bipolar disorder returned to what had once been her family home in Wilmette.

 

The woman forgot her parents had sold the home, entered the house and drank a bottle of wine, her attorney Bradley Schulman said in a statement. The owners came home, called the police, and she was arrested, Schulman said.

The woman initially was deemed unfit to stand trial but in September 2013 was sent to Cook County Jail, the lawyer said. There she was categorized as someone who should be housed in the psychiatric unit, but instead she was switched to the general population, her lawyer said.

Another inmate, who had a history of violence and was off her bipolar medication, “assaulted (her) because (she) was talking to herself,” Schulman said.

Schulman’s client developed a massive brain bleed and was in a coma for a month. She then went to rehabilitation and was sent to a nursing home for rehab for three years, the attorney said.

“Cook County Jail should not have placed a nonviolent psychiatric patient in the same cell with a bipolar violent offender who was off her medication,” Schulman said.

Cook County sheriff’s spokeswoman Cara Smith released a statement strenuously denying the jail’s liability for the woman’s injuries. Smith said it’s up to the Cook County hospitals system to diagnose detainees.

“Those diagnoses are relied upon in part to make housing decisions for detainees in our care. At the time, our housing decisions were directed and overseen by Department of Justice monitors to ensure best practices,” Smith said. “This case was settled without our involvement.”

A spokeswoman for the hospitals said in a written statement, “We were not defendants in this case nor were we consulted in the settlement discussion/decision. It is our understanding that the clinical employees who were named defendants in the case are state employees.” She referred further questions to the state’s attorney’s office. A state’s attorney spokeswoman did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

In other news, commissioners approved an ordinance to ban and erase the county’s database documenting the names of alleged gang members. The ordinance prohibits the county from maintaining a gang database effective Jan. 15, mandates destroying the records under a process established by state law and prohibits the sheriff from restarting the database or inputting individuals’ names “into any external gang designation database,” the ordinance says.

Dart’s office previously said it had decommissioned the database, but Commissioner Alma Anaya pushed for an ordinance to make it legally binding.

Anaya greeted a group of community activists before a committee meeting Wednesday and praised them for their advocacy against the gang database.

“They were the ones calling commissioners, they were the ones trying to sit down with the president’s office,” Anaya said. “I think their push meant so much to getting it accomplished and passed.”

Dart’s office released a statement hailing the measure.

“This ordinance is a result of tremendous collaboration between our office and commissioners Anaya, (Stanley) Moore and (Larry) Suffredin,” the statement said. “We are grateful for the hard work and diligence that allowed us to come to agreement on this important issue.”

The board also passed an ordinance introduced by Commissioner Kevin Morrison creating a Committee on Addressing Bias, Equity and Cultural Competency.

“County government should explore all avenues that will foster a workforce that is more culturally responsive and competent,” Morrison said in a statement. “Safe and welcoming working conditions and services should be prioritized.”

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle did not hold her customary post-board meeting news conference with reporters for the second month in a row.

gpratt@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @royalpratt




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