Masturbating Inmates Could Cost Taxpayers Millions Jun 5, 2019 20:15:00 GMT -5
Post by JoannaB on Jun 5, 2019 20:15:00 GMT -5
Masturbating Inmates Could Cost Taxpayers Millions
CHICAGO – Legal fees for cases relating to masturbating detainees at the Cook County Jail could reach more than $2 million. The Cook County Board’s Finance Committee will consider the latest $486,216.39 in fees and expenses associated with five cases brought by public defenders, sheriff’s officers and other female county employees exposed to the harassment. This comes on top of almost $1.7 million the Board has already paid.
It’s been dubbed an “extreme brand of workplace sexual harassment” by one state senator who sought increased penalties for the lewd behavior.
The offended women have written letters to county officials and filed lawsuits. The problem has become so severe that in 2017, a federal judge ordered all Cook County jail detainees with a history of indecent exposure, public masturbation or sexual misconduct to remain handcuffed “at all times” during courthouse visits.
In 2017 alone, half-a-dozen employees of the Cook County Public Defender’s office filed a sexual harassment suit claiming the problem dated back to 2015. In their complaint, the employees described frequent encounters with detainees who would masturbate, sexually harass or expose themselves to lawyers during meetings. In addition, dozens of female sheriff’s officers filed suit against Sheriff Tom Dart during 2017 and 18, alleging he had not done enough to protect them from almost daily encounters with detainees who would sexually harass and assault them.
The fees coming before the committee relate to five of the cases, brought by public defenders, jail guards, a court interpreter and a nurse.
Commissioner Peter Silvestri, R-Elmwood Park, a member of the Finance Committee, said the situation was sad for the victims and taxpayers. “We shouldn’t have a situation where men or women are exposing themselves to public defenders, but on the financial end, it’s crazy, too, because someone failed to create an environment that was favorable to detainees,” he added.
A spokeswoman with the State’s Attorney’s Office was not able to comment because the matter relates to pending litigation.
Cara Smith, chief of policy for the sheriff’s office, indicated the payment is for attorneys’ fees and the cases have not been settled. “We continue to vigorously defend against the allegations,” she advised in a statement. “The payments are for attorneys’ fees. We have not seen the fee petitions and the State’s Attorney’s Office has approved the payments without our involvement. Also, the hourly rate is set by the State’s Attorney’s Office.”
On Thursday, the full County Board is scheduled to vote on the fees.
Source: Rachel Hinton, The Chicago Sun-Times, June 4, 2019.