Lawsuit accuses Cook County of allowing ‘sadistic culture’ at jail

Cook County Sherriff Tom Dart responds to a lawsuit that describes a ‘sadistic culture’ at Cook County jails.


By Jason Meisner and Steve Schmadeke Tribune reporters

10:07 p.m. CST, February 27, 2014

Despite more than three decades of litigation and oversight by federal judges, Cook County Jail remains a “civic embarrassment” where violence is so pervasive that correctional officers take inmates on “elevator rides” –code for beatings out of view of security cameras, said lawyers who filed a proposed class-action lawsuit Thursday.

The lawsuit by the MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University decried a “culture of lawlessness” at two of the jail’s maximum-security divisions, backing up the claim with sworn statements from nearly 90 inmates, some of whom alleged they were beaten by officers using handcuffs as brass knuckles.

One inmate who alleged he was beaten and pepper-sprayed by officers wrote in his statement that a high-ranking jail official told him, “Where does the Constitution say we’re not supposed to be beating?”

Lawsuit accuses Cook County of allowing ‘sadistic culture’ at jail