On October 11, 1974, pretrial detainees in the custody of the Cook County, Illinois, Department of Corrections brought a class action suit against county officials under 42 U.S.C. §1983 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois alleging violations of their rights under the Fourteenth Amendment by failing to provide safe and humane conditions of confinement. The plaintiffs were represented in part by the MacArthur Justice Center of the University of Chicago. The District Court (Judge Thomas R. McMillen, Jr.) dismissed three of the fifteen claims raised in the complaint, and the plaintiff pretrial detainees appealed. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (Chief Judge Thomas Edward Fairchild) reversed, holding that pretrial detainees may suffer no more restrictions than are reasonably necessary to ensure their presence at trial. Duran v. Elrod, 542 F.2d 998 (7th Cir. 1976). The Court of Appeals found that the District Court erred in striking the portion of the complaint alleging lack of visiting privileges with families and friends and lack of sufficient telephones. The District Court also erred in dismissing the portion of the complaint relating to adequacy of recreation, exercise and living facilities.
A consent decree was later entered by the District Court (Judge Milton I. Shadur, Jr.) on April 9, 1982. The decree called for the renovation and modernization of the county jail facilities, increasing staff personnel, improvement in food services and provision of personal hygiene supplies, increased access to the law library, more physical exercise periods and increased hours for visitation. The decree also provided that the John Howard Association would monitor the implementation of the decree by submitting reports every six months to the court. The District Court retained jurisdiction over the case in order to enforce as necessary the decree's provisions.
In October 1982, the John Howard Association submitted their first six month report regarding jail conditions. The report indicated an insufficient number of jail beds which forced many inmates to sleep on the floor, sometimes without mattresses or blankets. On January 25, 1983, the District Court ordered a population ""cap"" of 4500 inmates at the jail. This figure was arrived at to assure that each inmate would have a bed. The defendants, county officials, subsequently moved for relief from the population cap order and requested the approval of emergency ""double-bunking"" of the inmates even though one provision of the decree specifically forbade double-bunking. Judge Shadur denied these motions on March 22, 1983, and ordered the county officials to release the inmates held with the lowest amount of bail in order to meet the population cap. The county officials immediately appealed. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (Senior District Court Judge Robert A. Grant, sitting by designation) affirmed by holding that county officials were not entitled to modification of the consent decree to permit emergency double-bunking and that the District Court did not exceed its authority in directing the release of low-bond pretrial detainees as necessary to reach the population cap. Duran v. Elrod, 713 F.2d 292 (7th Cir. 1983). The U.S. Supreme Court denied the county officials' petition for a writ of certiorari. Elrod v. Duran, 465 U.S. 1108 (1984).
In 1984, Cook County released over 15,000 inmates to avoid double-bunking, and on March 27, 1985, the county filed a motion requesting the District Court to modify the consent decree to allow double-bunking of accused felons until May 15, the completion date for renovations at the jail that would add more beds. The District Court denied this motion, noting that the county had dragged its heels in constructing new facilities. On April 26, 1985, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (Judge Richard Allen Posner) reversed, finding that the motion to permit double-bunking should have been granted because the period was not extensive, refusal to grant relief would result in the release of 500 accused felons, and the prohibition on double-bunking was not required by the Constitution. Duran v. Elrod, 760 F.2d 756 (7th Cir. 1985). The Court of Appeals thus ordered modification of the decree to allow double-bunking until May 15, 1985, but at the same time noted its dissatisfaction with the county's response to jail overcrowding. Judge Joel Martin Flaum dissented from the Court of Appeals' decision and noted that there was not a sufficient showing to justify a finding of abuse of discretion by the District Court.
The docket for the early part of the case was not available on PACER, and accordingly, we do not have further information on that part of the litigation.
The PACER docket begins in 1993, by which time the case was before Judge George M. Marovich. It shows litigation from 1993 through 2012 concerning compliance with the court's order and attorneys' fee awards pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996. During this time, the John Howard Association continued to file periodic reports monitoring the county's compliance with the decree. On November 24, 2004, Judge Marovich granted the plaintiffs' motion for a finding of civil contempt. That motion was terminated on March 8, 2005. On January 12, 2006, Judge Marovich modified the consent decree to allow for an Electronic Monitoring Program to be operated by Cook County. The case was reassigned to Judge Virginia M. Kendall on September 1, 2006.
On February 29, 2008 the court assigned John Howard Association to monitor the effectiveness of the defendants' plan to eliminate overcrowding and report to the court. On July 8, 2009 the plaintiffs made a motion for overcrowding and staffing relief, alleging that the defendants defaulted on their prior February 2008 agreement to eliminate crowding. On July 17, 2009 the court found that there is currently no overcrowding at the Cook County Jail, and so the plaintiff's motion for Implementation of Proposal for Elimination of Overcrowding in the Jail was denied without prejudice as moot. The Court also found that defendants were in violation of part of the Consent Decree in that the defendants had not hired staff members to fully staff the facility in spite of their agreement to do so in February 2006. The defendants were directed to hire 210 correctional officers.
On June 10, 2011, both parties moved for the court to approve a voluntarily dismissal and after fairness hearings and on November 30, 2011 the order was granted. Kristen Sagar - 05/24/2007
Abigail DeHart - 10/20/2016