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Redress Coming for Inmates’ Lewd Behavior

An entrance to the Cook County Jail in Chicago.A federal judge has given the go-ahead for class-action lawsuit that seeks damages from the Cook County government for the treatment of female employees by prisoners in the county courts and lock-ups. US District Judge Michael Kennelly said petitions brought by jail workers and public defenders in 2017 could go ahead under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, among other federal and state statutes.

The cases were brought by workers who encountered inmates acting lewdly, verbally threatening and in some cases touching female assistant public defenders, law clerks, correctional and medical staff. They claim the Cook County Sherriff and other administrative staff were aware of the incidents, which increased when punishment for such offenses were downgraded in 2014. County government contends it cannot be held liable for the hostile work environment.