CHICAGO – The Cook County Council signed a $ 14 million payment agreement to settle a class action lawsuit filed by a group of women assistant state attorneys who say county officials did not protect them from “disgusting sexual abuse” by detained men in Cook County Jail on an almost daily basis.
The district commissioners voted unanimously on Thursday to approve the agreement in Brown et al. against Cook County and others, concluding a case filed more than three years earlier by a group of six female attorneys at the Cook County Public Defender’s Office.
Half a dozen longtime public defenders claimed that masturbation, indecent exposure and threats were widespread. In some cases, according to the complaint, prison inmates grab, physically assault, or excrete body fluids on their female lawyers.
According to the case, Cook County Sheriff Tom Darth, Public Defender Amy Campenelli, and other county officials encouraged inmates to “conduct a lengthy campaign of sexual assault, indecent exposure, and female masturbation.”
The complaint alleges that detainees who spent 30 days without masturbating in front of their lawyers were entitled to a pizza provided by the sheriff’s office.
Kara Smith, Darth’s chief policy adviser at the time, urged the public defense’s claim to pizza, calling it “absurd and a lie.”
Within three weeks of the federal lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly ordered the sheriff’s office to require detainees to wear special overalls that restrict their hands on the first report of indecent exposure.
Kennelly also ordered all detainees with reported cases of misconduct to be handcuffed behind their backs.
“[T]he restrained sexual assaults that persisted significantly after the implementation of these corrective measures, and the number of reported incidents decreased dramatically after January 2018. “, according to the lawyers of the public defenders.
The judge also noted that the evidence he saw showed that the pizza described by the public defenders was “unauthorized and in fact opposed to prison policy; it is neither funded by the sheriff’s office nor approved by it. “
About $ 9.5 million of the money will be distributed among more than 530 women. Lawyers and the claims administrator must receive 30 percent of the settlement fund – $ 4.2 million, according to Kennelly’s order approving the agreement.
Each lead plaintiff named in the case will receive an additional $ 25,000, those who made deposits, $ 15,000, $ 10,000 for those who answered questions under oath but were not removed, and $ 5,000 for those who have assisted and sworn.
According to the case and past reports, a prison gang called Savage Life has fueled the rise of sexual aggression against prison lawyers. The gang awards “points” to detainees for any incident of masturbation or assault, depending on how serious it is and which lawyer is targeted, the lawsuit claims.
In recent years, Savage Life, mostly members of various street gangs facing lengthy prison sentences, has thrown feces and urine, attacked guards and taken hostages in prison.
Two days after public defenders filed their complaint and a request for certification of class actions, a group of female guards at Cook County Jail also filed a federal lawsuit.
That, which remains pending, it is alleged that the guards were usually groped and grabbed, one of whom was “facing a whole layer of detainees with their penises inserted through the” holes “in the doors of their cells”