Cook County Jail Settlement: $7.5 Million In Payouts For Former Detainees Denied Prescription Drugs

Cook County Jail Settlement: $7.5 Million In Payouts For Former Detainees Denied Prescription Drugs

Cook County
Cook County Jail settlement: $7.5 million in payouts will go to former detainees who were denied prescription drugs in a timely manner. Michael Parish was the first to sue the county. Photo: Illinois Department of Corrections

Cook County, Illinois, has settled a class-action lawsuit with inmates who were refused needed medication over an eight-year period at Chicago’s Cook County Jail.

Michael Parish, the first to sue the county, was suffering from bipolar disorder in 2005 when he was sent to the jail. The jail refused to give Parish his medication that was sent with him by the state prison system. A year later, Parish cut himself to get the attention of jail authorities to get his medication, the lawsuit said. After Parish sued in 2007, other inmates joined the lawsuit.

Cook County will pay $7.5 million to settle the class-action lawsuit that claims it failed to administer prescription drugs in a timely manner to incoming Cook County Jail detainees, according to a preliminary agreement reached in federal court.

New detainees with medication for ailments including asthma and mental health problems waited more than 24 hours for the medication they needed, The Chicago Sun-Times reported.

The settlement will cover detainees who entered the jail between 2005 and 2013.

“This closes the book on a terrible chapter in the jail,” said Kenneth Flaxman, the lead attorney for the detainees. “By 2013, the problems were pretty much gone.”

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Under the settlement agreement, the sheriff’s office and county didn’t admit wrongdoing.

“The sheriff’s office did not take part in the decision to settle this case,” according to a statement from the sheriff’s office. “These healthcare decisions were made by Cermak Health Services, a division of Cook County Health. We continue to work closely with Cermak staff in our goal to maintain and promote good health and safety among detainees.”

Parish was paroled on March 13 from state prison after serving a 25-year sentence for robbery, prison records show.

After a 2008 Justice Department report found worrying flaws in the jail’s medical screening for new detainees, the sheriff’s office and county entered a federal consent decree in 2010 and addressed the issues, Flaxman said.

“The county paid lots of money to bring the jail up to DOJ standards,” he said.

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Notices were sent in February to about 150,000 people who were admitted to the jail between 2005 and 2013. Inmates who were taking prescription medications at the time will qualify to take part in the settlement, Flaxman said.

“The award for each person who entered the jail between 2005 and 2011 will be $200 and $100 for those admitted between 2011 and 2013, during a period the medical intake process was improving. The settlement gives bonuses to plaintiffs including Parish who provided testimony through depositions. He’ll get $25,000 — the largest one,” The Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Cook County Jail is going through another medical crisis. There are 167 detainees who have tested positive for the coronavirus, NBC News 5 Chicago reported. Twenty-five staff members have also tested positive.

As concerns over COVID-19 have heightened, the jail has released at least 400 detainees in an effort to lower the jail’s population and reduce the spread of the coronavirus.