Â Hammond, INÂ — A federal judge late yesterday certified a class action lawsuit against the Sheriff of Lake County, IN and other Lake County Jail officials, covering 10s of thousands detained in the jail since May 2006.
The suit charges the jail with promoting cruel and degrading conditions with detainees packed tightly into “holding cells” â€“ designed to hold people only for hours â€“ instead holding people for weeks at time with their routine needs for sanitation and bedding denied.
As Chief Judge Philip P. Simon noted in his opinion, â€œaccording to the Plaintiffs, the conditions in the holding cells are unsanitary â€“ the walls and floor are often covered with bodily fluids; each holding cell has one toilet, which is often backed up and rarely has toilet paper; and Jail personnel do not provide detainees any means to the clean the cells themselvesâ€¦ All detainees are forced to sleep directly on concrete benches or floorsâ€¦and because the holding cells are overcrowded and dirty, they are often forced to sleep practically on top of one another, and on unsanitary and filthy surfaces. These conditions are aggravated by the consistently cold temperature in the holding cells, the lack of ventilation, and the bright florescent lights constantly illuminating the holding cells.â€
According to the suit, Richard Flood, et al v. [Lake County Sheriff] Roy Dominguez, et al, detainees are given no “shower, clothing changes, or soap.Â One toilet is provided for up to 40 men.Â Human waste lies on the floors of the cells.Â As such, the cells are breeding grounds for dangerous infections.â€¦ Making conditions even more dangerously unsanitary, some detainees who withdraw from drug addiction in the holding cells vomit and defecate on themselves and the floors.”
In 2008 the Gary Post-Tribune reported that over the previous three years the jail had double the number of suicides as Chicago’s Cook County Jail, even though the latter has ten times the daily population of the Lake County jail.
The lawsuit was filed by Loevy & Loevy.
Loevy & Loevy (www.Loevy.com) is the largest civil rights law firm in Chicago, filing approximately as many suits against law enforcement abuses as all other firms in the city combined.Â The firm recently won a $16.5 million settlement for alleged detainee mistreatment in lock-ups at Chicago Police stations.