Friday, July 18, 2008

Problems At Cook County Jail

U.S. blasts jail conditions -- More bad news about the Chicago-area's Justice System. [The link has been updated Aug 9, 2009]

Prisoners at risk from each other. Prisoners at risk from guards. Unsanitary conditions. People dead due to inadequate medical care.

On the treatment of inmates:
The report detailed numerous incidents in which guards used excessive force in response to verbal insults, failures by inmates to follow instructions or violence against jail staff. Inmates have been punched, stomped, choked and struck with objects, often by multiple officers, suffering black eyes, broken jaws, loosened teeth, fractured noses and ribs, and head trauma, the report said.

"We believe that, despite management's efforts, a culture still exists at [the jail] in which the excessive and inappropriate use of physical force is too often tolerated," the report said.

In July 2007, a mentally ill inmate who exposed himself to a female corrections officer was taken to a clothing room where a group of guards handcuffed and beat him, leaving him with severe head injuries, the report said.
Medical care in jail?
In early 2006, a female inmate died of an untreated infection that was a common complication of HIV, investigators found. She went untreated for weeks despite an abnormal X-ray that identified a problem, the report said.

In an August 2006 case, an inmate's leg was amputated because of a bone infection improperly treated at the jail. In late 2006, another inmate died of sepsis after a jail staffer failed to take him to an appointment for post-operative care for a gunshot wound, the report said.
Of course those in authority point to budget cuts for all their woes. And maybe that explains some of this, but not all of this.

The Cook County Sheriff and the Cook County Board President complain that steps taken recently were ignored in the report. Excuse me, but this is a report about what is wrong, not a report about what is right.

This sounds more like the conditions of a third-world country, than the US. Prisoners free to attack other prisoners. Beatings. Death from simple infections. (These people didn't die from complications, they died from a simple lack of treatment.)

The case of Donald Martin is instructive. When he pointed out that he was a pretrial-detainee, and not a convicted criminal, he was beaten by guards. He was awarded 750,000 dollars. No wonder they don't have enough money to provide medical care. (So if they invested in a little training, and got rid of the bad guards, one wonders how much more they might save for use in the medical facilities... where the budget was cut from 40 million in 2006 to 31 million in 2007.)

And in all of this, Cook County now has (suffers from?) the highest sales tax in the whole country - more than 10%. Yet they still don't have the funds needed to provide simple, humane care for the injured. You have to wonder where the money is going.

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