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Cook County Jail on lockdown after 18 percent of shift does not show up

Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Chicago Tribune

Cook County Jail was placed on lockdown Tuesday, restricting the movement of inmates, after 18 percent of workers on the day shift did not make it to work, officials said.

The 142 correctional officers gave reasons ranging from illness and family issues to the weather for not showing up for the 7 a.m.-to-3 p.m. shift, according to Cara Smith, a spokeswoman for the Cook County sheriff's office.

 

Smith said jail officials attempt to "avoid lockdowns at all costs," but they are not uncommon because of understaffed shifts. “I would say it happens maybe once a month, maybe more frequently,’’ she said.

On an average Tuesday first shift, about 83 of 794 workers take the day off, Smith said.

"They have lives and kids like the rest of us do,’’ Smith said. “Our staff have very difficult jobs working at the jail. It’s a delicate balance."

The correctional officers are assigned across all areas of the 96 acres of the jail compound, working on tiers, in transportation and on electronic monitoring, Smith said. The lockdown affects all 10 divisions of the jail, which holds about 8,500 inmates. Division 9, the primary maximum-security unit, holds 973 detainees.

Inmates will be allowed to appear at court hearings and see visitors, and they will be permitted “necessary movements for mental and physical health,’’ Smith said.

But "nonessential movement," such as recreation, has been halted to "ensure the safety of staff and detainees," she said.

The lockdown is expected to stay in place all day Tuesday, even if other shifts are operating on full staffing.


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