CHICAGO (CBS) — Hundreds of women working at the Cook County Defenders Office have filed a class action lawsuit, alleging the office has not done enough to stop sexual advances by male inmates.
A 28-page federal lawsuit basically states enough is enough when it comes to what female public defenders endure inside Cook County Jail and its adjacent courthouse. The complaint states the six plaintiffs have been repeatedly subjected to “indecent exposure, masturbation, assault and battery” by detainees in lock-up.
Defense attorney Lauren Kaeseburg says it also happened to her while talking to a client at 26th and California.
“I was trying to focus on my client, talk to my client, and he just kept making sort of motions and trying to get my attention. When I finally looked over, he exposed himself and started to masturbate in the cell.”
Kaeseburg says, in her incident, no sheriff’s deputies were around to stop it. As such, she did her best to ignore it.
“Of course it’s incredibly distracting and bothersome and upsetting,” she said. “When I later shared that experience with other female attorneys, I had so many people say ‘oh my gosh, oh that happens, that happens all the time to people.'”
Furthermore, the lawsuit claims Cook County public defender Amy Campanelli and Cook County sheriff Tom Dart “have knowingly permitted it to continue” for years. Both are named defendants, along with Cook County.
Dart’s chief policy officer says they’ve been working on solutions, some of which have been blocked by the public defender. A top official in the Public Defender’s Office says they, too, are trying to find solutions, but can’t support significantly increased penalties for those detainees.
The attorneys behind this class action lawsuit claim this has happened to hundreds of female attorneys and clerks. In addition to money, they’re also asking for change and oversight.