Public Defenders

Public defenders are fed up with masturbating inmates, chief PD says

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Public defenders in Cook County, Illinois, won’t be visiting courtroom lockups in Chicago until the sheriff does something about masturbating inmates.

Public Defender Amy Campanelli issued a memo on Tuesday that banned the lockup visits, WBEZ reports. She cited two recent incidents in which inmates with pending public indecency cases masturbated in front of an assistant public defender in a lockup.

Campanelli said the inmates were unrestrained and there was no deputy present.

Campanelli’s decision followed an earlier letter describing the problem to Chief Judge Timothy Evans, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Inmates are masturbating in the jail as well as courthouse lockups, Campanelli said, and public defenders will no longer visit the jail after Nov. 6 if nothing is done.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has tried to combat the problem, but nothing has worked, Campanelli told the Sun-Times.

“There have always been these incidents since I became a public defender,” Campanelli told the Sun-Times. “But it’s never been like it is today, where it’s like the behavior we’re seeing now, every day, or every other day. It’s just become pervasive.”

Cara Smith, Dart’s chief policy officer, told WBEZ that Cook County is facing a budget crisis, and there isn’t enough money to assign extra deputies to lockup areas. The problem is even worse for correctional staffers, who see a lot more masturbation than public defenders do, Smith said.

Smith said the sheriff’s office had backed a bill to toughen penalties for indecent exposure in prisons and jails, but the public defender opposed the legislation. Campanelli said she couldn’t support a bill that increased misdemeanors to felonies.

Hat tip to the Marshall Project and ISBA Daily Legal News.

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