Part 1 – Pervasive Problems at Cook County Jail – Sheriff Tom Dart’s Goals

When former State Rep. Tom Dart took office as Cook County Sheriff, he issued a press release full of reform goals.

Here are three ideas I extracted from a Sun-Times article on Dart’s statement:

  • “Faith-based groups to increase mentoring for inmates to reduce recidivism,”
  • ”Installation of “a comprehensive video surveillance system at Cook County Jail,” and
  • ”An internal hotline so employees can report suspected corruption?”

Public officials don’t usually spend money on prisoners. Their opinion is usually “they deserve anything they get” and it’s usually backed up by their constituents.

(The rest of the story is here.)

I’ve been reading the Justice Department’s letter to Cook County Board President Todd Stroger concerning its Civil Rights Division’s investigation of the Cook County Jail.

Suicides, inappropriate beatings by guards, taunts about future rapes. I’ll quote parts of some of the findings to give you a sense of the inhumanness of the institution.

Since preventing rape in prison was my “social cause” of the 1990’s, let me start there.” (The case below was not on Dart’s watch, by the way.)

”Pedro S. was arrested on a sex charge brought by his niece. While in the intake area three officers who had read the charge began taunting him, yelling threats in Spanish, and asking if he knew what was about to happen to him. [Emphasis added. From what I learned while serving on Tom Johnson’s and Tom Dart’s Prison Reform Committee, typically, sex abusers get sexually assaulted in prison.]

“The officers struck him many times and called him a ‘f—— Mexican‘ …Because the officers threatened to kill Pedro if he said anything about the incident, he did not seek medical attention …released four days later (he) immediately saw a doctor and reported the incident to the Chicago Police Department. Medical records confirm that Pedro’s injuries included a broken rib and damage to his jaw and knee.”

There were five reported cases of sexual assault on the first five months of Dart’s watch, however (page 24).

There are lots of pre-Sheriff Dart abuses cited, but, even though he was undersheriff at the time, I don’t think it’s fair to hold him responsible.

Tomorrow: Cases cited by the federal report after Tom Dart took office as Cook County Sheriff.

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