In an investigative story released on April 4, 2017, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart told WGN-TV about the horrible working conditions his correctional officers face, citing, ‘The amount of restraint our employees show on a regular basis is amazing.’
The story comes after a recent fire broke out at the Cook County jail due to angry inmates using a microwave to set their new uniforms ablaze. The Sheriff implemented the new uniforms as a way to deter some inmates from exposing themselves to staff, as the new uniforms have higher stitching and take longer to pull off the body.
The Sheriff also created an “exposure unit” in Division 9 that currently houses more than 100 inmates that have repeatedly assaulted staff by exposing themselves and throwing bodily fluid at them. WGN-TV reported there were 500 cases of inmates physically assaulting the officers and another 350 cases of indecent exposure in 2016 alone. So far in 2017, there have already been 118 cases of indecent exposure by inmates.
“The sexual assaults are just one issue of the many dangerous situations our members have to be mentally and physically prepared for on a daily basis when they enter that jail,” said Teamsters Local 700 President Becky Strzechowski. “We agree with Sheriff Dart that the public should know about this and how difficult it is to deal with inmates who will stop at nothing to retaliate against the officers. His administration is taking a step in the right direction by making it harder for inmates to commit these crimes and pursuing sex offender status on their third offense. We do need to have further discussions on how to address the overall safety of the correctional officers and what else needs be done to protect them moving forward.”
Teamsters Local 700 represents more than 3,400 correctional officers at the Cook County Jail.