$4.1 Million Settlement with Shackled, Pregnant Jail Detainees Wins Preliminary Approval
Posted May 23, 2012 1:16 PM CDT
By Mark Hansen
A federal judge gave preliminary approval to a $4.1 million settlement of a class-action lawsuit against the Cook County (Ill.) Jail on behalf of a group of female inmates who say they were shackled while pregnant and in labor.
Unless objections are raised, the Chicago Tribune reports, roughly 80 former inmates will get an average of $35,000 each in the settlement. But more important than the money, plaintiff's lawyer Thomas Morrissey said, is the fact that the lawsuit has stopped the practice of shackling pregnant detainees in Cook County, which includes Chicago.
Since the suit was filed, Morrissey says, the county and the sheriff have "moved toward a more humane method" of handling women who are pregnant and in labor. "And I think this settlement fairly compensates the women for the past injuries they have suffered," he adds.
The settlement caps a long debate over the shackling of pregnant detainees and comes after years in which the Cook County sheriff's office, which runs the jail, has gradually relaxed its regulations.
The sheriff's office said it agreed to settle the case for expediency's sake and that the decision was in no way an admission of wrongdoing.
Back in 1999, Illinois became the first state in the nation to ban the practice of shackling females who were in labor or who were being transported to a hospital to deliver a baby. But in recent years, dozens of pregnant detainees in the county jail came forward to say their shackles were either never removed or were not removed until the moment they were about to gave birth.