Northwestern justice center sues Cook County officials

Ciara McCarthy, City Editor

Lawyers from Northwestern’s Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center are suing Cook County officials and employees on behalf of Cook County Jail inmates.

The lawsuit alleges a “culture of brutality and lawlessness infects the jail and forces these men, all of whom are awaiting trial, to live under a constant risk of life threatening violence.”

The lawsuit lists multiple allegations, including that jail officers regularly assault people who request mental health care or lodge complaints and that mentally ill inmates are sometimes targeted with violent punishments. The “culture of lawlessness” is the result of officials’ inability to manage the jail’s burgeoning population and overcrowding crisis, according to the lawsuit. Cook County is home to the largest single jail site in the nation, according to a center news release. 

“The sadistic violence and brutality at the Cook County Jail is not the work of a few rogue officers,” the lawsuit states. “It is a systemic problem that has remained unchecked at the highest levels of Cook County government. The Defendants have had actual knowledge of this pattern of violence for years — if not decades.”

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Sheriff Tom Dart are named among the defendants.

The suit alleges the prevalent violence often occurs while people are handcuffed or shackled.

“To cover up these attacks by officers, the victims of these brutal assaults are often placed in segregation as retaliatory punishment,” MacArthur attorney David Shapiro said in a news release. “Segregation is the polite term jailers use when they lock you in a cramped, filthy cell for nearly every minute of the day.” 

The lawyers are representing defendants Tylon Hudson, Laton Stubblefield, Angelo Matthews, Jermaine Brooks, Anton Carter and “similarly situated individuals.”

The justice center is a public interest law firm and joined the law school’s Bluhm Legal Clinic in 2006. 

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