Assault of Detainee Highlights Security Shortcomings in Markham Courthouse
After an arrest, many of the suspected offender’s rights are put on hold for a time—their right to travel freely, their right to communicate with whomever they please, and many others. Certain rights must, however, remain inviolate, protected by those holding the suspect, namely the right to safety from unprovoked assault while behind bars. The recent assault of a woman detainee at the Markham Courthouse has drawn attention to critical flaws in the security provided by courthouse staff.
The incident took place on May 2, 2017. Two men were sharing a holding cell connected to a courtroom, each due to make appearances on their respective cases that day. One man was being charged with aggravated kidnapping, and the other with first-degree murder, among other offenses. The cell in which the men were being held did not have a toilet. Each man asked to use the toilet in a neighboring cell, which was being occupied by a 52-year-old woman, which sheriff’s deputies permitted. While in the cell, both men are accused of assaulting the woman, and subsequent medical examinations showed that each had sexual contact with her. The men have each been charged with assault. Their cases have been transferred from the Markham Courthouse to the 26th Street Courthouse, and they are due to appear again in court on July 13.
The incident has spurred serious concerns about the safety procedures in place at the courthouse for those awaiting hearings. A spokesperson for County Sheriff Tom Dart reported that it “absolutely is the protocol” to separate male and female detainees, but could offer no explanation for why the men were allowed into the woman’s cell that day. The Cook County Sheriff’s Office has initiated an investigation into the incident. “The question that is the subject of our investigation is: where were the people that were supposed to be there, and what were they doing?” the sheriff’s spokesperson said. So far, five employees of the sheriff’s department, as well as two deputies, a lieutenant, and two sergeants who were on duty on the day of the assault have received alternate assignments while the investigation is ongoing.
Currently, there are roughly 2,400 security cameras located throughout the Cook County Jail complex, but none in the holding cells attached to individual courtrooms. While the spokesperson for Sheriff Dart noted that the department was seeking to increase the number of cameras in holding cells, “cameras don’t take the place of highly trained staff doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”
If you’re facing criminal charges in Illinois and want to feel confident that someone you trust is fighting aggressively and effectively to protect your constitutional rights, contact the Chicago criminal defense lawyer John Fairman for a consultation, in Bridgeview at 708-960-4806, or in Homewood at 708-799-4848.