An Illinois man is suing the Cook County Jail after he was allegedly beaten by inmates more than 10 hours after a judge ordered him to be released.
When an inmate is ordered to be released from Cook County Jail they are taken from the courthouse back to the jail to be processed out, a practice some claim is unconstitutional.
A class action lawsuit against the jail was filed on behalf of thousands of men who were freed since 2010, WBEZ reported. Edward Shultz is one of the plaintiffs.
Police found brass knuckles in Shultz’s car during a 2013 traffic stop. He spent 20 days in lockup at Cook County. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of unlawful use of a weapon and was freed by a county judge on May 9, 2013, around 10 a.m.
He was taken back to the jail and while gathering his things he was approached by other inmates.
“I went into the washroom, a group of inmates walked in and started asking me questions and I told them I don’t know, I’m just getting ready to go home,” he told WBEZ. “I was struck by an inmate. And at that time I was still conscious and about maybe six or seven more inmates ran in the bathroom on me.”
He says he was knocked unconscious.
“I just got beat up really bad,” he told his grandmother in a prison phone call after the attack. “The whole side of my head is swollen and face is swollen and my nose is broken.”
The attack occurred at 8:45 p.m. He had been declared a free man 11 hours earlier.
“We’re trying to get people out of the jail as quickly as possible,” Sheriff Tom Dart told WBEZ.
The jail’s executive director, Cara Smith, said the jail has begun a pilot program to check warrants and discharge inmates from the courthouse instead of taking them back to jail. This means going through paper records.
“Our two primary goals are overall to get people released as quickly as possible, but to make sure the right people are being released. We have a very, very antiquated system … it’s paper-based primarily,” Smith says. “We have to be extremely careful that we’re not releasing the wrong individual.”
Back in August, a 51-year-old visitor at Cook County Jail was left locked in a small room for 32 hours, CBS Chicago reported.
Farad Polk was visiting his son, when he walked into the wrong room in the super max Division 9 area of the jail. He was trapped for 32 hours without food, water or even a toilet.
Smith called it a “perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances.”
“The investigation showed that our staff, both in our lobby and in the visiting room that Mr. Polk’s son was to visit with him in, both staff went above and beyond to try to find out where Mr. Polk was when he didn’t come to the visiting room,” she told CBS News.
“Unfortunately, another visitor in the lobby thought that Mr. Polk had left, which led our staff to believe that he had left, which visitors sometimes do for a variety of reasons,” she said.
Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons / Keith Allison, Cook County Sheriff