Thursday, February 27, 2014

EXTRA: Jail not a pleasant place. That doesn’t make lawsuit’s claims proper

I find it odd that a television in the background while I write this is showing the 1997 film “Pleasantville,” which tells the tale of a 1950’s-era community where everything is pristine and pleasant.

Just because Cook County had a miserable jail back in 1910 doesn't mean we have to strive today to be even worse

Of course, that film shows us the dirty underside of such a white-washed community. And a lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court shows us the dirty underside of Chicago these days.

AS IN THE Cook County Jail.

The lawsuit says that the county’s management of the jail amounts to “sadistic violence and brutality.” What with the way guards use physical force to maintain order, or turn their heads to look away from brutal acts committed by inmates on themselves.

Now I know the reality I have heard from corrections officials that they are outnumbered by inmates within a jail or prison facility, and how any attempt to impose order by total domination would likely provoke the inmates into a riot.

So they tend to let the inmates have a sense of policing themselves.

THIS LAWSUIT BY the MacArthur Justice Center and the Uptown People’s Law Center gives a horrific image of incarceration that ought to make us ashamed that we could permit such a thing to happen within our society.

Although I’m also sure there are those amongst us who will read the reports about the lawsuit and merely shrug their shoulders, thinking to themselves, “Prison isn’t supposed to be pleasant.”

I’ll agree. But I also tend to believe that how we treat our most vulnerable (or choose to ignore them) also says a lot about us as a society and how seriously we deserve to be treated.

Personally, I’d like to think we deserve better than any reputation we’d get from letting the violence run amok out there at the jail in the Little Village neighborhood.

EVEN IN PLEASANTVILLE, in that scene where Toby McGuire’s “Bud” character spent time in a jail cell (charged with actions that made life “less pleasant”), nobody was threatening him with “an elevator ride.”

As in a place where he could be beaten up without being recorded on any security cameras – according to the jailhouse code included in the lawsuit.


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