What Is It Like To Be Incarcerated In Cook County Jail? – An Ex-Prisoner’s Account

[NOTE TO OUR READERS (8 Feb 2017):  This post is very popular and surprisingly it is read by many people from outside the US who apparently have friends or relatives locked up in “Crooked Crook County” Jail.  So we want you all to know:  It is very important that if bail has been set for your friend or relative and you have the money, bail your friend/family member out of jail as soon as possible!  No one is allowed to bail themselves out of jail!  The sooner you can bail them out the better it will be for them: it is very difficult to defend yourself from inside a jail or prison in the USA.  Also, the longer your friend or family member is stuck in jail the more likely it is that they will lose their job.  Last but not least: though for non-violent defendants the jail is not all that dangerous ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN WHEN YOU ARE IN JAIL!  The biggest threat comes not from the other inmates but from the sadistic, violent and often racist guards!  Also: bail money is only used to guarantee that your friend or family member will show up in court; it will be returned to you in full when your friend or family member makes his or her scheduled appearances in court for their hearing dates and trial.  SO LONG AS YOUR FRIEND/FAMILY MEMBER ATTENDS EVERY COURT HEARING AND THE TRIAL AS SCHEDULED YOU WILL GET YOUR MONEY BACK!  So don’t be cheap: pay the bail and get your friend/family member the hell out of that jail so they can get back to work and defend themselves from OUTSIDE the prison! – IWPCHI]

TO VERIFY THAT YOUR FRIEND OR FAMILY MEMBER IS ACTUALLY IMPRISONED IN COOK COUNTY JAIL, CHICAGO, IL go to this website:  COOK COUNTY JAIL – INMATE LOCATOR

It may take a few hours or up to a day before your friend/family member will be listed on the inmate locator.

BOND PAYMENTS:  Inmates must go to bond court before their bond is set and that may not happen until the day after their arrest.  IN CROOKED CROOK COUNTY, ALL BOND PAYMENTS MUST BE MADE IN PERSON.  If you do not have anyone in Illinois who can pay the bond in person, contact us at iwpchi.gmx.com and for a small donation we can make arrangements to have you send the money to us and we will be happy to make the payment in person for you.  FOR MORE INFORMATION GO TO THIS LINK:  COOK COUNTY JAIL – HOW TO PAY BOND FOR AN INMATE

If your friend/relative has had a public defender appointed to defend him/her you can contact the Public Defender’s Office directly. For more info go here:

OFFICE OF THE COOK COUNTY PUBLIC DEFENDER

If there is no way to bail out your friend or relative and you want to send them money so they can purchase food, clothing and other personal toilet articles:

HOW TO SEND MONEY TO AN INMATE AT COOK COUNTY JAIL

If your friend or relative is imprisoned by the State of  Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC):

STATE PRISON SYSTEM: ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS INMATE LOCATOR

— IWPCHI]

 

[A friend of ours wrote a friend of ours an email asking what it was like to go to the infamous, overcrowded Cook County Jail in Democratic Party-controlled Chicago, IL. The following is from an eyewitness account combining two separate experiences of being incarcerated in what we like to call “Crook County Jail” – once in late 2011 and again from early March to  mid-April 2012.   This person was originally arrested during an Occupy Chicago general assembly meeting in December of 2011 and sent to jail upon the demand of one of their leaders.  The pretext for this man’s arrest was an utterly phony “assault” charge brought by this leader of the Occupy movement.  Her assault case against this person was dropped on April 6, 2012.   The details of the circumstances that led to Occupy Chicago’s allowing this politically motivated frame-up to occur will be fully covered in a future article in the series “My Trip Through the Looking-Glass with Occupy Chicago”.  – IWP Editors]

[“So how was jail?  Did you have a roommate?  What did you do all day?”]

I’ve been meaning to write up a memoir of my experience in Cook County Jail – so thanks for giving me a reason to do it right now.

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The worst part of going to Cook County Jail is in the going to and from jail – the processing.  You usually first go to a local police station and are held overnight.  Then, unless you were arrested before, say, 5PM, the next day they take you to the County Jail.  If you were arrested on a weekday or a Sunday night you get to go to a bond hearing first, where bond is set at a ridiculously high figure for many people – the idea is obviously for Crook County to make as much money as possible from those who can afford to pay.

Bond Court in the United States is a classic “kangaroo court”.  It is not a hearing to determine the merits of the case against a citizen; it is merely a formality during which, so long as the arresting officer is present in the courtroom – and she or he usually is – the case, regardless of its obvious glaring defects, such as a badly beaten prisoner or a police report that is clearly self-contradictory, will be going to trial.  The decision that is made during the bond hearing is a simple one: will the accused citizen “choose” to “admit” his guilt, or not?  Plead guilty and your Public Defender can work out a deal with the State’s Attorney that allows you to go home, usually.  Plead innocent and you either pay the bail right away – immediately – or you get sent to the County Jail – and that’s all there is to it.

This is the modern version of “showing the implements of torture” to a medieval prisoner.  The propaganda widely disseminated throughout the nation by the bourgeois press is of prison rape being the first thing that happens to all inmates.  They even make hideous jokes about being locked up with “Bubba the Booty Bandit” or some such bullshit.  The result of all this brainwashing is that most people – innocent or guilty – will pay as much money as they, their families and their friends can manage to scrape together in order to avoid going to the county jail.  This completely unconstitutional frame-up system by which the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” is stood on its head results in two things of value to the criminals who run the US judicial system: One: the money they are able to extort from arrestees goes to offset, slightly, the costs of incarcerating millions of petty criminals and scofflaws, and; Two: it provides the criminals in judicial robes – who must oftentimes stand for re-election occasionally – with ridiculously high conviction rates.  In the Skokie Courthouse in Cook County, Illinois, for example, some judges boast of obtaining an astonishing, seemingly impossible “98.5%” conviction rate!

For the 1.5% of arrested citizens in Crook County who adamantly refuse to plead guilty – due to their astoundingly pigheaded belief that they are actually innocent of the crime they are accused of – and for those who simply can’t afford to pay their bond – there is now no option but to pass through the purgatory of their being “processed” into the Crook County Jail system.  This is no fun at all, and is deliberately made to be extremely unpleasant by the scum who run the Crook County Jail into an ordeal that no one who must suffer through it is likely to forget.  Handcuffed right wrist to a fellow prisoner’s left wrist, you are herded into a Cook County Sheriff’s jail bus and oftentimes driven from police station or courthouse to police station and courthouse to pick up more prisoners until the bus is either full or has completed its route.  Then you are taken to the Crook County Jail at 26th and California on Chicago’s south side.  Here you are forced through a series of petty humiliations that add up to a major humiliation – it’s not utterly unbearable – hundreds of men and women go through it and survive the ordeal every day – but it is inhuman.  And though it would be needlessly cruel even if it was being done to a self-confessed and convicted baby killer, the fact that it is being done every single day of the year to people who have not yet  been to a single actual court hearing, and who haven’t been convicted of anything except their poverty and/or their firm belief in their actual innocence – should be shocking to any person who believes in the concept that a person is “innocent until proven guilty”.  This entire “processing” experience routinely takes 8-10 HOURS, starting around 2 or 3 in the afternoon and lasting until 11PM to 1 AM the next morning, give or take.

First, you are driven through the city in a bus that has expanded-metal mesh fitted over all the windows so that you can not see out of, and no one can see in to the bus.  The bus is painted in the colors of the Crook County Sheriff’s Department, and clearly labeled as a prison bus.  This is a modern-day equivalent of a tumbrel, in which prisoners were publicly humiliated while on their way to and from jail, either to court, or to a place of execution.  The fact that a prisoner can not be seen clearly enough to make out his or her identity isn’t of much consolation to anyone unfortunate enough to be riding inside one of these buses.  It is indeed a humiliating experience for most people.

When you arrive at Crook County Jail, you are driven past several lines of razor-wire topped chain-link fences, with more coils of razor wire stretched out lengthwise between the fences; up to the razor-wire-topped gates that stand next to the guard tower at the entrance.  Once the driver and additional guard riding inside the bus go into the guard shack and surrender their weapons, they re-board the bus, the gates are opened and the bus drives into the jail complex, past prison buildings old and new, housing prisoners dangerous in some buildings and relatively harmless in others.

The bus winds its way through the prison “campus” until it arrives behind a seemingly windowless brick building 3 stories tall directly across the narrow road from another, much taller building that is under construction and that will house hundreds more prisoners some day in the not very distant future… because this entire jail complex is hugely overcrowded, and the Cook County Sheriff has been under a federal court order for more than a decade to stop cramming the facility with more human beings than it can legally, “humanely” hold.  These court orders have been ignored for decades while the United States, largely due to its senseless persecution of millions of people in the “War on Drugs”, has seen its prison population explode over the past quarter century until it the US has “achieved” the dubious distinction among industrialized nations of having the largest number of citizens, per capita, “living” in jails and prisons.

The prisoners are now made to get off the bus, and are herded, in twos, across the decrepit sidewalk along the decrepit wall and into what now becomes more apparent as you go inside it, a very decrepit building.  There are lawnmowers and snow removal machines inside the garage area you enter first; birds have, most incongruously, built nests inside this place! – and you head down the stairs, led by the driver and guard from the bus, to the first of many locked, heavy steel doors you will pass through.

[For reasons of space and time, I will omit the rest of this processing info.  You get to meet your first guards, who try to impress upon you the fact that they are guards and that they will not tolerate any disobeying of orders.  You are first once again body-searched – even though this was done already before you boarded the prison bus – for weapons, drugs or other contraband herded through: a metal detector; then taken to a bullpen – a jail cell maybe as big as a 20′ x 20′ storage space, with a filthy toilet and sink – and crammed in there until there is no room to sit and perhaps more than half the room is full of men forced to stand for up to several hours, shoulder to shoulder.  You may or may not get some food at this point, consisting of what you will be eating twice a day for as long as you stay there: a plastic 8 oz. bottle of some fake “juice”, and two bologna or salami sandwiches with mustard, on white bread. Eventually, your name is called, and you are taken to another bullpen – and crammed in there for another couple of hours with 60 or 75 men, again shoulder-to-shoulder.  Then your name is called again and you are led to a place where your photo and fingerprints are taken; you then enter another large room where you have a brief medical evaluation and you are crammed into another bullpen for a couple of hours where you wait to be “voice printed” – ostensibly in order for you to be able to use the prison telephone system whereby your friends and family will get ripped off to the tune of $10.00 per collect phone call made from the prison to them.  Then, it’s back to the overcrowded bullpen until your name is once again called and you are brought before the guards who oversee the “prisoner property” department of the jail, where you surrender your jacket, any other “contraband” items of clothing such as shoelaces and belts, and all your cash, all of which you are then given a receipt for.  Next, you get separated into another bullpen where you are segregated into medium or minimum security prisoners.
From here, your name is once again called and you are again handcuffed and herded, in twos, back through the building the way you came in, up the stairs and out through the garage into the open air.  Now you are ordered to walk across the campus of the jail until you arrive in another large room on the first floor of an old, three-story housing unit, where your handcuffs are once again removed and you are forced to go through yet another metal detector.  Yet again, you are placed into a large bullpen and made to wait, again, until your name is called, at which time you are made to go behind a flimsy room divider like you see in a doctor’s office to remove your clothing and you are handed a prison uniform and your towels, soap, toothbrush and toothpaste.  You change into your new clothing while your “civilian” clothing is placed into a garment bag which you have labeled with your own name and taken away by the inmates who work for the prison.  Your clothing will be held in these bags until you are released.

You may or may not be given some bologna sandwiches at this time, depending on how long you have been in the jail.  You are then placed in yet another room and made to wait until your name is called again, when, again, you will be handcuffed and led across the “campus” to your final destination, the dormitory where you will be spending the next few days, weeks, months, or in some very unfortunate cases, years.  Once you arrive at your dorm, you are (usually) given two flat sheets and a blanket and told of your bunk assignment.  Oftentimes, it is so late at night (or early in the morning) that everyone in the dorm is asleep when you arrive.  One of the overnight inmate-workers takes you to your bunk, where you make your bed and by now, goddamnit you are most likely so exhausted from your ordeal that you are eagerly looking forward to your arrival at this bed, no matter its condition or location.

Doesn’t that sound like fun?  If you enjoyed it, then good for you, because you can now look forward to going through this same procedure – minus the fingerprinting, photo-taking, voice-printing and property-surrendering – TWICE EVERY TIME YOU GO TO COURT!  And once again when you are finally released!  And every single time you are made to go through this ordeal, throughout the entire process, the guards will make sure to take as long as they possibly can to perform each and every one of their “duties”, wasting time joking with their fellow guards, exchanging gossip or flirting with each other, and simply wandering around aimlessly – and they will scrupulously observe every coffee and meal break and every shift change regardless of how many hundreds of prisoners are being forced to remain stuffed shoulder-to-shoulder inside every one of those stinking, overcrowded, toilet-paperless and filthy bullpens until the guards return or are relieved!]
You asked if I had any roommates?  Uh… yes, I did.  I had 300 roommates, crammed into a room approximately 100 feet long by 75 feet wide. The Cook County jail is world-famous for its continuously overcrowded condition.  It’s so overcrowded that they are using “condemned” areas of the jail to temporarily house new inmates – in spite of the fact that – thanks to a successful class-action lawsuit against the Crook County Sheriff’s Department – every inmate housed in a “condemned” section of the jail is paid $80.00 for every day they spend in those areas.  Whenever a prisoner is released – either because his friends or family have paid his bail,  he has served his time or (rarely) won his case – and is allowed to go home, within a few hours – and often within 15 minutes – another man is taking his place.

We were allowed to sleep about 5 hours a day; had access to 2 televisions – one which was for Spanish-language programs, the other for English… so mostly we watched either stupid-ass daytime TV or stupid-ass sitcoms.  Since the population of American jails is over 75% black (and it was just before and during the NBA playoffs) we watched a lot of basketball.  We had no access at all to daily newspapers, so except for our ability to watch the local evening news (and an occasional national news broadcast) we had no ability to keep up with current events.  There is no access to the prison library – in fact, the guards claim – even though  “Public Library” is listed on the request forms handed out to every prisoner who asks for one – that “there is no prison library”.  All reading material is sent in from friends and family, and passed around from prisoner to prisoner – and every article of printed matter guarded rather jealously.  And, of course, we had no access to normal telephones or the Internet.  The telephones are not allowed to use directory assistance, so unless you have memorized all your friends’ numbers, you are “up shit’s creek” when it comes to contacting the outside world.  And the phone system is designed to rob everyone who uses it, as well as to make phone calls coming in from incarcerated friends and family members unwelcome to everyone who receives a call from jail: they calls are all “collect” calls; the recipient has to set up a payment plan with the swindling company that runs the phone service; and the calls cost $10.00 each for 15 minutes, no matter how long you actually stay on the line.  The company routinely overbills people for the phone calls, and if the phone call is cut off before the 15 minutes is up, too bad – it still costs the full $10.00.

The overriding experience of life at the Crook County Jail is one of utter boredom.  The TV is always tuned to something worthless; there is no radio available, usually (although the TVs can play a few radio stations); no newspapers are available; there is no reading material at all unless you have something sent to you or you cajole a book from a fellow prisoner… many guys just choose to sleep all day and only arise from their bunks for meals.
Many, many times I heard men say – men who knew that they were definitely going to be convicted and sent to an actual state or federal prison – that they couldn’t wait to get there, because almost everything is better in prison – the food, access to TV and radio, relative privacy of cells, access to educational opportunities – than it is in Crook County’s jails.  They’d rather deal with the increased violence they routinely face in prison than have to vegetate in that crappy Cook County Jail!

It is important to keep in mind that in all cases, although many of these guys had arrest records going back years, none of them were currently convicted of anything.  Many had “violated parole” by missing a court date or by having failed a drug test, or by having been arrested for some trivial misdemeanor.  We were all awaiting trial, and so, “innocent until proven guilty”, right?

Exercise  was not available to us at all.  Cook County Jail has a huge gym and basketball courts everywhere but they go unused except for the gym, which is used for mainly Christian religious indoctrination.  This is one of the most significant human rights violations at this jail; some men had been held in the minimum-security wings of this jail awaiting the final disposition of their cases for as much as 3 years without ever having a chance to get any kind of significant physical exercise.  As a result, men and women who are detained here for extended periods of time suffer severe deterioration of their physical health.

Contrary to bourgeois propaganda, and the fact that I was in medium-to-minimum-security wings of the Cook County Jail, there was very little fighting (2 minor fights over the 8 weeks in total that I was in jail) and as far as I was aware, not a single incidence of sexual harassment, never mind rape.  In fact, it was quite amazing how well these guys behaved towards each other given the very difficult conditions we were all forced to live under.

The food is garbage, and there was plenty of it served to us.  Breakfast was the only halfway decent meal of the day.  We got a bowl of sugary cereal (frosted flakes, cocoa puffs or fruit loops), a box of “juice” and some bread (under cooked onion bagel, sometimes a couple slices of bread with bologna or a slice of yellow American cheese.). Occasionally we’d get a hard-boiled egg or a tube of peanut butter or jelly. For lunch it was always the same: two bologna or salami sandwiches with one packet of either mustard or mayonnaise.  This came with a packet of powdered artificially-flavored fruit drink, and a bag of chips.  Dinner was some kind of dog food served wet or made up into meatballs, served with a tablespoon of salad greens and a heaping helping of some kind of starchy crap – undercooked potatoes or rice; a scoop of vegetable (green beans or carrots) and a couple of oreo-type cookies.

As a result of this shitty diet, practically everyone was severely constipated.  Guys went a week at a time without taking a shit, even though they definitely felt the need to go.  On several occasions, I had such a difficult time taking a shit that after waiting a week to finally seriously feel that this time it would be a real shit and not another futile attempt to expel a turd, after 20 minutes of straining to take a dump I finally had to reach down and actually pull the shit out of my ass with my hand.  After that, I stopped eating all the bread, bologna sandwiches, undercooked potatoes and rice and undercooked bagels and traded that junk for salad and veggies.  That worked to stop the severest constipation symptoms for me, although I was far from my usual healthy digestive system.  Putting up with this for a couple of weeks is barely tolerable; having to deal with this for a year or three would be very bad for one’s health.

The only avenue for anyone to get some decent food was to buy it from the commissary, which we could do once a week.  Another private company was hired to provide these commissary services – at inflated prices.  The way that worked is that when you get arrested, they seize all your cash and use it to open up an account from which your commissary purchases are deducted.  You can also have your family and friends add money to your account from “outside”.  You can buy foil packets of tuna fish, mackerel, salmon; packets of mustard, mayo and hot sauce; squeezable “cheese”; peanut butter and jelly packets; and toiletries like “Magic Shave” (no razors – the shittiest razors in the world are given out, and re-collected very sparingly, by the guards every weeknight) and toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo and soap, as well as t-shirts, underwear, socks and “shower shoes”.  All kinds of junk food: cookies, candy, chips and super-sugary ‘baked goods’ are available (which is what most people load up on every week).  You can also buy crappy ballpoint pens with the hard plastic tube removed (possible weapon!), stamps, envelopes and allegedly, paper – although in the entire 6 weeks I was there, I tried to buy paper 5 times and was never able to get any, though I did buy stamped envelopes and a couple pens.

The guards – some of them treated people like as if we were convicts not worthy of contempt, and never missed an opportunity to bellow out idiotic “orders” as if we were dumb animals.  These unarmed cretins could easily have been attacked and beaten to death by the prisoners (who outnumbered them 10-1) except for the fact that the prisoners ignored them and held them in utter contempt, not even worth talking back to.  There were a few guards who tried to act tough, and I saw and heard of a couple of prisoners who were beaten up badly by guards for very minor disciplinary infractions.  About a third of the guards tried to treat us decently, seemingly unaware that the vast majority of us hated their guts anyway.

The demeanor of the guards, universally, was as if they were stars of a reality TV show based on the “Police Academy” movies.  They were laughing and joking all the time; at night, they’d fall asleep in a room full of 300 prisoners; they would bark out orders and call us “asshole”, “stupid” or other epithets intended to be demeaning, they’d watch movies all shift, only grudgingly performing the services they were supposed to provide us.  Ask them for a grievance form and they would always say they were out of them.  Ask them anything and 9 times out of ten they either didn’t know or they lied and gave you some bullshit answer.  The only section of the jail I was in where the guards treated the prisoners like they were human was in the section – medium security – housing mostly gang members.  Here, the guards gave the prisoners a lot of leeway to run things as they saw fit.  The gangs had taken sheets and made curtains around one or two toilets so you could have privacy when you took a dump; they also set up a couple of sheets in the shower area so you could have privacy when showering; only one person was back there at a time.  (The showers in this section were in an open room next to the row of toilets, which had no partitions between them).

Most of us were given a bath towel, a facecloth, a tube of toothpaste and a crappy short toothbrush and a small bar of soap for our “toilet”; I didn’t get this complete set when I was there last – no facecloth and dirty bath towel.  Apparently the jail was so overcrowded they didn’t have enough of these to go around.

The beds were steel twin-size bunk beds placed about two feet apart.  You had a plastic mattress, two sheets and a thin blanket per bed – although I only got 2 sheets and no blanket.  Often times the guards left the air conditioning on all day and night, dropping the temperature at one time to the mid-50s.  Everyone was forced to wear their blankets all day to stay warm, which is a violation of jail rules.  The guards all pretended that they had no control over the heating system.  This kind of low-level harassment was de rigeur at this jail.  All kinds of petty insults were constantly being tossed our way by the majority of the staff and supervisors.

The prisoners – even in the gang section I was in for a couple of weeks – largely treated each other with a great deal of respect.  They tested you when you first came in, especially if you were white, to see if you were a chickenshit – or a racist.  Once you passed the “test”, although you certainly weren’t placed on the same level of respect accorded a fellow gang member, you were basically OK as a “neutron” – an unaffiliated fellow prisoner.  Once I proved that I didn’t think I was in any way superior to black people and that I could hang out with everyone as an equal I was fine.  Immediately, guys offered to share what they had with me; shower shoes, extra toilet paper, even some food.  We hung out watching TV and talking about our cases, some of us strategizing as to how we were going to win our cases after having researched the relevant legal precedents we discovered during our rarely-granted and brief visits to the law library. All in all, I’d have to say that some of the most decent human beings I’ve ever met in Chicago in more than 20 years I met while I was in Cook County Jail.

That pretty much covers it.  Enforced boredom punctuated by meals not fit to eat, then more boredom, sleep, boredom, shower, sleep, boredom, the ordeal of going to and returning from court (which routinely takes 16 hours!) and the occasional book or magazine between periods of boredom, sleep, boredom and dog food.  Oh yes, and the periodic mandatory assembly of all the prisoners in each dormitory to sit through a religious indoctrination presented by a fundamentalist Christian group under the guise of some type of “social work program” or other.
In my case, after going through all that shit – twice – the charges against me in two of the three separate cases against me were dropped, which enabled me to once again qualify for a personal recognizance bond on the third case (called an I-bond in Crook County), at which time I was deemed no longer a danger to the public and allowed to be released from jail… but only after going through the “processing” ordeal two more times on my way from court and then out of the jail…!

Copyright 2012 – Independent Workers Party – Chicago, IL

Spelling corrected, slight improvements made 26 January 2014

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30 responses to “What Is It Like To Be Incarcerated In Cook County Jail? – An Ex-Prisoner’s Account

  1. you forgot the 4 inch rouches and the how dirty the place is

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    • Our correspondent never saw any roaches, believe it or not, though those holding pens in the basement of the jail where everyone is packed in like sardines when they are transferred from one part of the jail to another were maintained in unbelievably filthy condition, with toilets, walls and sinks so foul that no one dared to use them except in an emergency. The holding cells – directly under that “palace of justice” – Cook County Courthouse at 26th and California – where all the inmates are forced to wait before they are called up to court are also a disgrace – Amnesty International should do an inspection there. The fact that several thousand presumed innocent men and women are incarcerated there for months or years on end waiting for trial without any opportunity for any kind of physical exercise at all is, all by itself, a first-rate human rights violation. The food is so starchy that nearly all the inmates suffer from severe constipation – undoubtedly this fact is a source of great amusement for the Democratic Party’s Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and the gang of criminals who run that dump.

      There is a lot more we have to say about Cook County Jail – one of the most overcrowded and third-rate shithole jails in the US, land of the world’s largest per-capita prison population. “Land of the free”? Yeah, right.

      Workers of the World, Unite!

      IWPCHI

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  2. Someone should look into this. Even the visiting areas are filthy, no toilet paper or paper towels in bathrooms, and bugs are everywhere !!!!

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  3. All practicing cook county criminal lawyers should be made to spend a month in the county jail as a condition of employment and maybe we will see some changes made.

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    • That is a fine idea! And after the working class seizes power in the USA of course, many of them will not be just “visiting” Cook County Jail but will be permanent “guests”! And they’ll have plenty of company from their friends in Chicago and Crook County police and government offices. Maybe Tom Dart will teach them all how to play chess!

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  4. I was in cook county jail twice and the expereice of the ex-prisoner is 100% true. What you need to do if your inside is just stay low key, and do what the guards tell you, and you will be fine.the inmates for some strange reason pretty much get along. I’s the guards you have to watch, they are the once that are jack-offs.

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  5. I was in cook county jail twice and the experience of the ex prisiner is 100% true. What to do if your inside is just stay low key and very silent, and do what the guards tell you. The inmates pretty much won’t bother you. I’d the guards you have to watch, they are big assholes and dicks.

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  6. Show no fear and be strong, follow orders be silent and you will be out before you know it. It will be a long day and you will be treated like a animal.

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  7. County ain’t no joke

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  8. True this place is pure bullshit. My uncle was in the jail and said that the guards treated him and others like animals

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  9. Here’s a few corrections from a retired Cook County Correctional Officer.
    1. Guards don’t have control over the air conditioning or the heat in the jail. If the inmate is freezing, the Officer is freezing too. Only maintenance can control the temperature in the jail and they’re impossible to contact.
    2. Officers really don’t have as much control as inmates think we do. We are often held only slightly above the status of an inmate.
    3. Many Officers are decent to the inmates only to be taken advantaged of by them. He pretty much admits it when he says they despised us no matter how we treated them.
    4. Inmates are strip searched for their own safety. This guy spent only 6 weeks in the county jail, looking from the inside out. He has no clue how many privileges were lost to inmates due to their own abuse and violence toward each other.
    5. The guards did not lie when they said there was no Public Library in the jail. There use to be a library in Division V, but the inmates only used it to meet up with fellow gang members, while books were only used to make weapons.
    6. The televisions are routinely destroyed by the inmates, as well as the locks on the doors, the cameras, the recreation equipment and anything else they can get their hands on.
    7. The inmates have access to mops, brooms and cleaning supplies but the majority of them never request to use them. They contribute to the filth but expect someone else to clean up after them.
    8. What he said about recreation is false. The detainees are routinely given recreation. Division XI had brand new weight equipment and a pool table on every pod when we opened it. Four years later all the equipment was broke, missing or made into shanks (knives) including damage to the pool tables, missing balls and sticks.
    9. There are most definitely roaches and rats in the Cook County Jail. Just because he never saw one doesn’t mean they’re not there. I’ve seen them.
    10. The Officers sit around because they’re paid to be sit around. Believe me they’re just as bored as the inmates.The overcrowding problem and the awful food is true. Some problems are due to the enormity of the jail. I would hope that some of the problems in the booking process were resolved with the opening of the new building last year. This building replaced the old receiving room and holding area. It was designed to improve the court process.

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  10. Here’s the corrected version.
    1. Officers do not have control over the air conditioning or the heat in the jail. If the inmate is freezing, the Officer is freezing too. Only maintenance can control the temperature in the jail and they’re impossible to contact.
    2. Officers really don’t have as much to do as inmates think we do and often held only slightly above the status of an inmate by the administration.
    3. Many Officers are decent to the inmates only to be taken advantaged of by them. This guy pretty much admits this when he says the inmates despise us no matter how we treat them.
    4. Inmates are strip searched for their own safety. This guy spent only 6 weeks in the county jail, looking from the inside out. He has no clue how many privileges were lost to inmates due to their own abuse and violence toward each other.
    5. The guards did not lie when they said there was no public library in the jail. There use to be a library in Division V, but the inmates only went to library to meet up with fellow gang members, while books were only used to make weapons.
    6. The televisions are routinely destroyed by the inmates, as well as the locks on the doors, the cameras, the elevators, the rec equipment and anything else they can get their hands on.
    7. The inmates have access to mops, brooms and cleaning supplies but the majority of them never request to use them. They contribute to the filth but expect someone else to clean up after them.
    8. What he said about recreation is false. The detainees are routinely given recreation. Division XI had brand new weight equipment and a pool table on every pod when we opened it. Four years later all the equipment was broke, missing or made into shanks (knives) including damage to the pool tables, missing balls and sticks.
    9. Inmates are notorious liars. They routinely tell lies while awaiting trial to practice for their defense. The goal being that by the time they get in court they actually believe their own bull shit.
    10. The Officers sit around because they’re paid to sit around. Believe me they’re just as bored as the inmates.The overcrowding problem and the awful food is true. Some problems are due to the enormity of the jail. I would hope that some of the problems in the booking process were resolved with the opening of the new building last year. This building replaced the old receiving room and holding area. It was designed to improve the court process.
    Retired Cook County Correctional Officer

    Like

    • The correspondent who sent in the following comments requested that we hide their identity if we were to publish their comments, which they submitted to us for moderation. Initially, we actually removed her identity and email and website information from her comments as per her request; however, given the fact that this person, who claims to be a retired Cook County Jail guard, tells several obvious lies about the jail conditions and the behavior of the inmates, and also takes pains to openly and falsely slander the inmates who await trial in the sections of Crook County Jail described by our original correspondent, we see no reason to grant her request of anonymity at all. To paraphrase the late, great Hunter S. Thompson: you bought the ticket, Rose; you take the ride! – IWPCHI

      “1: Officers do not have control over the air conditioning or the heat in the jail. If the inmate is freezing, the Officer is freezing too. Only maintenance can control the temperature in the jail and they’re impossible to contact.”

      If the inmate is freezing there is nothing the inmate can do; he or she can’t just put on a sweater or jacket like the officers can do. Also, if the officers can’t have the heat turned on when the conditions require it, and they don’t file a complaint to their superiors about the intolerable conditions regarding the heat or air conditioning, then they are as responsible for the conditions as anyone else in power.

      “3. Many Officers are decent to the inmates only to be taken advantaged of by them. This guy pretty much admits this when he says the inmates despise us no matter how we treat them.”

      When in the history of the world have prisoners in any jail had respect for the jailers who voluntarily hold them in disgusting conditions and who often beat and abuse prisoners for no reason as part of their “job” – and who cover up for the crimes against prisoners daily committed by their fellow guards?

      “4. Inmates are strip searched for their own safety. This guy spent only 6 weeks in the county jail, looking from the inside out. He has no clue how many privileges were lost to inmates due to their own abuse and violence toward each other.”

      Human rights like decent food, daily exercise, opportunities to read daily newspapers or books and freedom from random strip searches are not “privileges” that are to be given or withheld at the whim of prison guards or any other prison authorities. Keep in mind that almost all of the prisoners held in the Cook County Jail in the divisions our correspondent was in were awaiting trial and therefore had not been convicted of any offense! Cook County Jail has been repeatedly found in violation of US Constitutional rights of inmates by Illinois courts and human rights organizations for the abusive use of strip searches by guards and prison authorities.

      “5. The guards did not lie when they said there was no public library in the jail. There use to be a library in Division V, but the inmates only went to library to meet up with fellow gang members, while books were only used to make weapons.”

      Even today the Cook County Jail provides inmates with request slips that are used to request medical attention and visits to the law library; these slips also have a section for requesting books from the “library”. Every jail has a library; the Crook County Jail is no exception. Inmates awaiting trial are systematically denied access to the existing library at the Crook County Jail – in violation of their basic rights as human beings. There are inmates who have been in Crook County Jail for as long as 8 YEARS awaiting trial who have had no opportunity to obtain any kind of current newspaper, newsmagazine or book. This is a violation of the basic civil rights of the inmates at Crook County Jail.

      “6. The televisions are routinely destroyed by the inmates, as well as the locks on the doors, the cameras, the elevators, the rec equipment and anything else they can get their hands on.”

      This is just a shameless lie. How could inmates, under armed guard 24 hours a day – especially when they are in transit between facilities (the only time that they are allowed into the elevators) destroy elevators? Why would inmates destroy televisions unless they were provoked to do so? The televisions are their only means of obtaining information about current events as well as access to entertainment, movies and sporting events. Typical slander of the inmate population from a Crooked Crook County Jail Guard. And you wonder why the inmates have such deep contempt for the majority of the guards – even the ones like you who imagine that you treat the inmates with what in your twisted mind constitutes “respect”!

      “7. The inmates have access to mops, brooms and cleaning supplies but the majority of them never request to use them. They contribute to the filth but expect someone else to clean up after them.”

      The truth is that according to our correspondent, it is jail trustys and the inmates themselves who actually keep the cells and the common areas clean. They are given filthy mops and never given enough disinfectant and other cleaning supplies to keep their common areas clean yet they manage to do an excellent job in spite of the refusal of the prison authorities to provide adequate cleaning supplies. You are a liar and a slanderer and a typical lying scumbag Crook County Jail Guard and a future inmate in the jail you imagine is only for imprisoning the citizens of Crook County!

      “8. What he said about recreation is false. The detainees are routinely given recreation. Division XI had brand new weight equipment and a pool table on every pod when we opened it. Four years later all the equipment was broke, missing or made into shanks (knives) including damage to the pool tables, missing balls and sticks.”

      Another lie! In the sections of the jail where our correspondent was held, there were absolutely NO opportunities for the inmates to take ANY form of exercise; and there were several inmates who had been held in your jail for as long as eight years who had never been allowed to take any kind of exercise in all those years! All that was available to the inmates for exercise were the improvised weight training equipment that they themselves built using plastic bags of water – which were considered to be contraband and which were routinely confiscated and destroyed by the guards during their frequent “shakedowns” of the jail. Beyond that, the only other physical exercise taken by the prisoners was a form of walking excercise in which the prisoners speed-walked around the perimiter of the common areas, or in which they walked back and forth along the perimeter of the interior walls. A huge gym containing basketball courts as well as several outside basketball courts were left unused during the entire 6 weeks our correspondent was in the jail; and he was informed by the long-term prisoners there that the inmates were never allowed to use those facilities at all. The new jail seems to have crappy inside basketball courts facing away from the southern side of the building, thereby denying inmates any direct exposure to the sun during their incarceration. Whether or not the inmates will actually be allowed access to these limited and inadequate exercise facilities on a daily basis remains to be seen.

      “9. Inmates are notorious liars. They routinely tell lies while awaiting trial to practice for their defense. The goal being that by the time they get in court they actually believe their own bull shit.”

      Guards and cops are notorious liars, as you yourself are. It is called by the police “testilying”; and the police and Crook County cops and jail guards are internationally infamous for their routine practice of such perjury in every court in Crook County; in fact, the fact of cops routinely perjuring themselves in what passes for courts of justice in Crook County is one of the principal reasons why Crook County is known worldwide by its famous nickname.

      “9. There are most definitely roaches and rats in the Cook County Jail. Just because he never saw one doesn’t mean they’re not there. I’ve seen them.

      10. The Officers sit around because they’re paid to sit around. Believe me they’re just as bored as the inmates.The overcrowding problem and the awful food is true. Some problems are due to the enormity of the jail. I would hope that some of the problems in the booking process were resolved with the opening of the new building last year. This building replaced the old receiving room and holding area. It was designed to improve the court process.
      Retired Cook County Correctional Officer”

      Finally we get a glimmer of truth from you regarding the internationally infamous overcrowding of Crook County Jail as well as its notoriously disgusting food and the inexcusably bad rodent infestation of the place. Once again this proves that even the most corrupt and crooked person may be expected to tell the truth once in a great while! Congratulations!

      Like

      • WRONG AGAIN DUMB ASS! THERE IS NO FUCKIN LIBRARY IN THE COOK COUNTY JAIL, YOU STUPID ASS! THEY CLOSED IT 20 FUCKIN YEARS AGO, YOU STUPID SHIT! GET YOUR INFO CORRECT!!! THOSE DUMB ASS SLIPS THEY GIVE THE MATES HAVEN’T BEEN UPDATED IN YEARS. MOTHER FUCKER, STOP DOIN THE CRIME, IF YOU CAN’T DO THE TIME, DIP SHIT!!!

        Like

      • Saying that the library was “closed 20 years ago” is meaningless: the library is probably still there, it’s just not being used, like the huge gym that’s there that never gets used, and all the outdoor basketball courts that sit there crumbling and rusting away while the prisoners spend months and sometimes years locked up in that shithole jail without any opportunity for exercise. And if you could read you would have noticed that the section of the jail our correspondent described was for prisoners awaiting trial – NOT those who were convicted of crimes, “DUMB ASS”! Ever hear of the concept of “innocent until proven guilty”? But as a Crook County jail guard you aren’t taught anything about the law, you are trained to treat all prisoners with the same level of contempt whether they are convicted murderers or people awaiting trial for unpaid child support, right?

        Oh, and by the way, “DUMB ASS” – you left the caps lock on again.

        Like

      • THE REASON MATES HAVE BEEN MANDATED BY LAW NOT TO RECEIVE NEWSPAPERS IS BECAUSE DUMB-ASS MATES KEEP JUMPIN OFF EVERY TIME THEY READ SOME SHIT IN THE PAPER. ALSO, FOR SECURITY PURPOSES (WE DON’T EXPECT A DUMB-ASS SHIT LIKE YOURSELF TO UNDERSTAND THIS AS YOU NEVER DID A DECENT DAY OF WORK IN YOUR SORRY-ASS LIFE) MANY RULES ARE ENFORCED FOR YOUR OWN GOOD AND THE GREATER GOOD OF THE PUBLIC. HAVE YOU EVER HEARD OF A FELLOW MATE COMMITTING SUICIDE UPON DISCOVERING THAT HE”S LOSING HIS CASE? HAVE YOU EVER HEARD OF AN INMATE ARRANGING AN AMBUSH AFTER DISCOVERING HE’S LOSING HIS CASE? REPORTER’S WRITE AND THE POLICE CAN’T CONTROL WHAT THEY WRITE, TRUE OR FALSE. GET REAL DUDE, THIS AIN’T NO FUCKIN CONSPIRACY. THAT WOULD BE TOO SIMPLISTIC. THIS SHIT IS COMPLEX AND IT AIN’T BLACK AND WHITE. THEY”RE PEOPLE ON THE INSIDE THAT UNDERSTAND YOUR PLIGHT BUT YOU ALIENATE THEM WITH YOUR BULL SHIT. LET”S FACE IT, YOU DON”T GIVE A DAMN ABOUT SOCIETY OT THE SAFETY OF SOCIETY. YOUR ONLY CONCERN IS ABOUT YOUR RIGHTS. FUCK SOCIETY’S RIGHTS. RIGHT??? THINK ABOUT IT. YOU’RE A FUCKIN SOCIAPATH.

        Like

  11. Wow that was pretty shitty of you iwpchi.

    Like

    • It was shitty – and stupid! – of ex-screw Ms. Pernice-Dembosz to think that she could use our forum to spew her lies all over the “innocent until proven guilty” prisoners at Chicago’s internationally infamous Crook County Jail! This isn’t a place where enemies of the working class can seek and obtain positions from which to attack our working class brothers and sisters. Maybe the next idiot who thinks about using us in this way will take this as an appropriate warning.

      IWPCHI

      Like

    • That is funny – who in the world would seek mental health assistance from one of the most physically and psychologically abusive organizations on this planet: The Cook County Jail? The jail’s own emergency medical services are staffed with doctors and nurses who assist the jail guards in “punishing” injured prisoners, forcing them to sit for hours in pain, with broken bones awaiting treatment and who laugh at the suffering of the prisoners! We can only imagine what Crook County Jail’s Mental Health Hotline is like! If anyone has any experience with this fiasco please let us know!

      IWPCHI

      Like

  12. I was in and out of the crook county jail many many times and Miss Prenice well she was fuckin cool. She was good to us. You’s a fool and you being rude to her just goes to show IWPCHI you is nothin but a low life.

    Like

    • “You’s a fool…you is nothin’ but a low life”… is this how you think black folks write? Your email and IP address are the same as Mr. ALL CAPS who claims to be a Crook County jail guard, by the way!

      Thanks for showing the whole world a fine example of the typical racist mentality and I.Q. of a Crook County screw!

      Like

  13. YOU ARE A LOW LOW LOW FUCKIN LIFE AND A LOSER!!! AND YOU ARE NEVER GOING TO BE NOTHING BUT A LOW LOW LOW FUCKIN LIFE AND A LOSER!!!

    Like

    • Lol! “YOU ARE NEVER GOING TO BE NOTHING” but a Crook County Jail guard! And if that’s not being a “LOW LOW LOW FUCKIN LIFE AND A LOSER!!!” then what is?

      IWPCHI

      Like

  14. Citizen of Chicago

    I just got out of the nightmare that is 26th & California two days ago, and I can attest that it is actually worse than described by your correspondent. I’m an upstanding citizen, I work a straight job, I have a normal life. I was in for a misdemeanor and was fortunate enough to have left that tragedy of a building after the 30 longest hours of my life. When I arrived home, I literally had to be convinced that I hadn’t been there for three days. The entire complex is kept ridiculously cold. I’m estimating it was never above 65 degrees at any time, and in some areas was easily in the mid-fifties. It was over 80 degrees outside, so most inmates were taken into custody wearing shorts, and almost no one had a long sleeve shirt, much less a jacket. There is also a constant disinfectant with a strong medicinal odor being blown through the ventilation. Everything in the jail smells like this – I was told it was to “keep the germs down”. Whatever, it smelled like a revolting combination of the rancid bologna they serve as food (completely inedible – I couldn’t eat it – I traded it for “juice”) and Vick’s Vapo-rub. Yes, there are decent guards in there, some were downright compassionate. Others, were the scum of the earth, absolutely criminal, small-dicked, sadistic fiends. One particular shit-fuck recited what sounded like a practiced “speech” about how he didn’t give a fuck about any of us, that we we pieces of shit, and he didn’t care that we had received bond, if we pissed him off, we’d stay there as long as he pleased. This guy personally harassed me because I was born on a farm in the suburbs, and moved to the city as an adult, I guess that makes me a pussy. Even though I’m sure this guy couldn’t hold my jockstrap, as I’m confident I’d dominate his dumb ass if I wasn’t in a position of subordination, and just wanting to get out.. I could go on, but I guess I’m just glad its over. As a “normal person”, as a citizen who formally had respect for the law, and those sworn to uphold it, I now see what a naive fool I’d been. I probably should have stayed on that farm, far away from 26th & California.

    Like

    • Thanks for the comment and for the update on the conditions at Cook County Jail – still being run by that “great humanitarian” Tom Dart in the same old traditional Crook County way! “Innocent until proven guilty”? Not in the eyes of the cretinous guards at Crook County Jail!

      IWPCHI

      Like

  15. Everything i just read is 99% Just keep your mouth shut and if your lucky you wil be out unharmed!

    Like

    • Thanks for the comment. It depends, of course, on how serious a crime you are accused of having committed. Most people who are thrown into Crook County Jail to await a bond hearing are there for getting into a fight with their significant other, minor drug crimes and misdemeanors – and for the “crime” of walking or driving down the street while black or Hispanic. The vast majority of those folks are decent working people who simply don’t have the money to bond out at the time of arrest. Most everyone gets along amazingly well considering the extremely unpleasant conditions and treatment they receive at that notorious shit-hole jail and at the hands of the crooked Crook County cops and jail guards.
      If you have a friend or family member at Crook County Jail – BAIL THEM OUT! It’s almost impossible to effectively fight a case from inside the jail; the public defenders are overwhelmed with cases and often do a terrible job of representing their clients. Plus, your buddy in jail might lose his job; his car will be impounded which will cost a ton of money; and he or she could be in jail for up to 2 months before they finally get an “I-Bond” which allows them to go home under personal recognisance. The refusal of I-Bonds to people who have no prior serious criminal background is an enormous scandal in the United States which results from the FACT that the “criminally unjust ‘Justice’ System” here is a for-profit system run to squeeze as much money as possible from the workers who get sucked into this crooked sewer of a “justice” system.

      IWPCHI

      Like

  16. Sheila Perkins

    I was in Cook County jail in 2009 for only 5 days, but it scarred me for life. I was from small town Nebraska, hooked up with the wrong one and ended up in Chicago. Everyone who goes to jail is not a piece of shit, yet the guards are allowed to treat you worse than people are allowed to treat dogs. Hell, I was even guilty of the charge, which was not a violent one. But I did not deserve to be denied a bathroom when I was on my period when I arrived with my cheap pad from Division 5. They let me bleed all over myself for at least 4 hours. NO ONE was allowed to use the bathroom until a certain phase of the processing in ritual. In fact, the one guard announced that if anyone asked to use the bathroom again, she would smack the shit out of them.
    Good people make bad mistakes sometimes and it sickens me how government employees are paid to demean, torture and humiliate human beings. I don’t know which was worse, being locked up and treated like that or having the judge see that I was white and giving me an affordable bond when the other three that I was arrested with were given bonds so high, there was no way they were going to get out. They had the misfortune of being black. I would be willing to bet that my rap sheet wasn’t any worse than theirs.
    Eventually, I did time at the women’s Penitentiary in York, Nebraska years later on non-related charges. I never one at any time felt threatened or humiliated the whole twenty nine months that I was an inmate in Nebraska.
    I am taking some classes starting in the fall in Human Services. I will always advocate for inmates and support the Ombudsmen who stand up for prisoner’s rights. Cook County Jail has not heard the last from me.

    Like

    • Thanks for your post! The way the prison guards at Crooked Crook County Jail treat prisoners who haven’t even been convicted of any crime is outrageous. You can only imagine what it must be like to be a long-term prisoner in the actual jail! The whole system is designed to demean, insult and degrade people; and of course the sorry excuses for human beings who want to be prison guards tend to be the most sadistic and cowardly people available.
      We wish you the best in your work standing up for prisoner’s rights; but the only way this hideous system of entrenched injustice will ever be brought to an end is if the working class of the USA overthrows the capitalist class – the 3% – and the brutal capitalist system that throws workers in jail at the drop of a hat while the banksters who rob the nation blind get a slap on the wrist – if that.
      What we need to do if we want to turn things around is first of all to create a revolutionary socialist workers party that will lead the fight, intransigently, for workers rights. The 2-party system in the USA is the most hollow mockery of a “democracy” that can be imagined. The rich people own both parties – and they alone through their millions of dollars of campaign donations decide who the citizens get to “choose” from. In this way the richest 3% of the US population have won every single election since George Washington was elected! We need a party that represents us – the workers of the USA – over 300 million strong! Right now the US working class does not have a single representative of our class at the state or national levels of government! Not ONE!

      All over the world new political parties are being created that have overturned the mainstream political parties – from Greece (SYRIZA) to Spain (PODEMOS) and all over Europe (Pirate Party). While we do not support any of these reformist political organizations (because they all actually defend capitalism) we point them out as examples of how quickly and easily new parties can be created, organized, and self-financed (the Sanders campaign – though it too is pro-capitalist and we do not support it – is an excellent example of how a workers party could be self-financed).
      Working in “human services” is like doing the labors of Sisyphus. If the system doesn’t get changed you’ll never stop rolling that huge ball of injustice up the hill only to see it slip from your grasp and roll all the way back down. Why not look into joining a revolutionary socialist workers party like ours? You can fight not just to put band-aids on severed limbs but actually fight to bring ALL the misery created by the capitalist mode of production throughout the USA and the world to an end, permanently!
      Workers of the World, Unite!
      IWPCHI

      Like

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