In a scathing report yesterday, federal authorities said a culture exists at Chicago’s Cook County Jail in which inmates are systematically beaten by guards and medical care is so substandard that some inmates have died, the Chicago Tribune reports. The Justice Department threatened legal action if steps aren’t taken to ensure that inmates’ basic constitutional rights aren’t routinely violated. In the 98-page report, the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division called the complex violent and pointed to a raft of problems ranging from unsanitary conditions to inadequate mental health care and suicide-prevention measures.
U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald called on the Cook County Board and Sheriff Tom Dart to fix a dangerous jail that is “woefully inadequate.” Dart, who is responsible for the jail, saying he felt betrayed after his office fully cooperated with the probe, only to have the report ignore their reform efforts. “For them to come out with criticism and then flavor it with some horribly incendiary language and try to paint this picture that we don’t care or we don’t know is completely inaccurate and horribly unprofessional,” he said. The largest facility of its kind in the country, the jail long has been criticized as understaffed and overcrowded. For more than a quarter-century, the jail has been monitored by a federal judge as a result of the settlement of a lawsuit over overcrowding. The Justice Department report made it clear that oversight hasn’t been enough.