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Sheriff: Inmate in Cook County Jail hostage situation has history of attacks

Monday, August 01, 2016
Chicago Tribune
by Tony Briscoe

One of the two Cook County Jail inmates who orchestrated a violent cellblock takeover last week had a reputation for attacks on corrections officers, including one two months ago in which he seriously injured a Kankakee officer, authorities say.

Cordarryl Stevenson, 27, has been locked up since September 2014 in connection with an October 2013 carjacking in Skokie, according to the Cook County sheriff's office and records. In the past year, Stevenson twice was accused of physically assaulting officers and three times flung urine and feces at jailers, said Cara Smith, a spokeswoman for the sheriff's office.

In May, Stevenson was transferred to a Kankakee County jail for disciplinary reasons. Within about a week he "badly beat" a corrections officer, Smith said.

Chad Kolitwenzew, Kankakee County sheriff's chief of corrections, couldn't be reached for comment.

Stevenson was transferred back to Cook County Jail, where he and another inmate, Martin Alvarado, 24, took over a cellblock for three hours Thursday. Alvarado was being held on a murder charge in connection with the death of his girlfriend's 18-month-old son in Cicero last spring.

The dilemma of how to handle habitually violent detainees remains a difficult challenge for jails, where disciplinary actions don't appear to deter bad behavior as inmates wait for their cases to be resolved. Cook County sheriff's officials have recently solicited help from inmates' defense attorneys to discourage attacks against officers and other inmates.

"The shameful reality is that these cases languish for far too long," Smith said.

Around 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Stevenson and Alvarado put soapy water all over the floor and blocked security cameras before pulling them out entirely, according to a news release.

At one point, Stevenson held a long piece of metal to a kneeling inmate's head and mouthed, "You can't help him," as other inmates watched from lunchroom tables in the cellblock, a chilling Cook County sheriff's office video shows.

In a second video, a woman says, "He just stabbed him again. He just stabbed him in the leg," before the jail's Emergency Response Team entered in riot gear about 7:30 p.m. The inmate who was stabbed suffered what appeared to be minor injuries and has since been released from the hospital, Smith said.

"Half of the inmates were out of the cell watching TV, reading and spending time out in the day room," Smith said. "In this situation, it first started just with (Stevenson) causing a commotion and it escalated when he produced a weapon and grabbed a detainee. We can't recall a similar incident going back some years."

In a statement in late June after another attack on correctional officers, Teamsters Local 700, the union that represents Cook County Jail corrections officers, mentioned a "recent riot" in Division II.

"We would like to commend the sheriff for finally posting these videos of attacks on officers by detainees at the Cook County Department of Corrections, but we want the public to know these videos represent only a small fraction of the approximately 1,900 assaults and batteries committed on officers since 2011," according to the statement from union President Becky Strzechowski. "Within the past three months alone, 50 officers have gone on duty injury as a result of a detainee attack. More than 10 of those cases were 911 emergencies where the officers involved were taken to local hospitals in an ambulance for immediate treatment."

The jail is investigating how Stevenson obtained the shank. Smith said inmates have been known to fashion pieces of inhalers into weapons.

Stevenson and Alvarado are expected to face criminal charges for the jailhouse attack this week. Stevenson was moved to a maximum security block within the jail that has a tier for "disciplinary segregation," while Alvarado was transferred to Rock Island County Jail, Smith said.

They were both previously housed in a maximum security block for inmates with medical issues. It's unclear what medical problems they had.

On Friday, another Cook County inmate who was being escorted to his cell punched a corrections officer in the face and head, Smith said. The officer was hospitalized but has since been released and returned to work.

tbriscoe@tribpub.com

Twitter @_tonybriscoe



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