Fire Started By Cook County Jail Inmates Caught On Video

CHICAGO (CBS) — Inmates at Cook County Jail are caught on tape trying to light their uniforms on fire on Saturday evening.

Video of the incident was released on Monday:

In the surveillance video, an inmate ignites his green jumpsuit using material he caught on fire in a microwave. A second jumpsuit is added.

The detainees were in Division 9, the jail’s super maximum security division, in a tier designated for “problematic detainees who engage in sexual misconduct.”

“These inmates wear this green jumpsuit because they have demonstrated that they either expose themselves to the guards or they throw bodily fluids at the guards,” said Irv Miller, CBS 2 Legal Analyst.

In the second video, you see correctional officers bringing inmates to another room, getting them out of the smoke-filled room where the fire started. The union representing the officers said this incident happened right when staffing cuts were announced.

“We’ve asked them to provide more staff.  We’ve asked for the safety equipment for quite a while now,” said Dennis Andrews, Business Agent for the Cook County Dept. of Corrections. “And there is no response.”

Chief Policy Officer for the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, Cara Smith, said this is not a staffing issue, but an absenteeism issue and staffing is not being cut. During the shift in which this incident occurred, 28.3 percent of assigned staff didn’t show up for work.

“Their claim does not hold water. We wish instead that their focus would be on getting their members to come to work and do the job that they were hired to do,” Smith said.

Smith added that no show calls often come during holidays or sporting events.

The microwave used to start the fire has since been removed. Inmates used it to warm up food they bought through the commissary.

Four correctional officers were taken to hospitals Saturday evening. Two officers were taken to a hospital for smoke exposure, and two officers were taken to a hospital for injuries they suffered while securing the tier, according to the sheriff’s office. None of the injuries were thought to be life-threatening.

Charges are expected against the inmates involved.

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