Inmates filed a lawsuit against the Lake County Sheriff’s Office Monday, claiming they dealt with unsanitary conditions after a water shutdown at Lake County Jail. The lawsuit requests monetary compensation for each inmate to prevent something like this from happening at Lake County Jail in the future.
According to the lawsuit, inmates housed in the Lake County Jail around Nov. 7 to Nov. 10 weren’t informed that the water would be shut off while a new booster pump was being installed at the building. Inmates were forced to live in inhumane conditions because of it. They had just five bottles of water a day for drinking, bathing, cooking and flushing toilets.
Urine and feces sat in the cells overnight, making the inmates “sick, sleep-deprived and agitated.” They suffered from conditions like migraine headaches, dehydration, dizziness, constipation and depression.
The inmates’ attorney, Kevin O’Connor, said, “You can’t deny people their basic need of food, water and sanitation. That’s the three basic elements everyone’s entitled to.”
After a Lake County board meeting on Nov. 14, where a Black Lives Matter representative presented complaints from relatives of the inmates, Lake County Undersheriff Dave Hare said he didn’t receive any formal complaints about the issue. He stated further that inmates were given two bottles of water for every eight-hour shift during the outage and had access to more water bottles in the coolers.
Lake County Administrator Barry Burton, who also attended the Nov. 14 board meeting, said that the water outage was necessary, but that they could have done a better job informing inmates and their families about the issue.
“We’re going to re-look at our information plan so when something like this significantly happens, (we) can provide more outreach where people have correct information,” Burton told the board.
This isn’t the first time a jail has been accused of having unsanitary conditions. In November, a local legal nonprofit sued the city of St. Louis, claiming the conditions at the Medium Security Institution were unsafe. ArchCity Defenders accused the city for failing to address unsanitary conditions that resulted in health problems in inmates.
The lawsuit says, “these conditions not only violate the United States Constitution, but also run afoul of the most basic standards of human decency.”
The city’s corrections commissioner Dale Glass defended the jail’s conditions, stating that the building is clean.
“There’s no infestations, no mold, and the inmates are treated with respect,” Glass said. “People get to say whatever they want to say, but if you go look at the health department inspections, the fact that we’re nationally accredited, all the programs that we run to help inmates, I would think that would outweigh comments that anyone would say.”
The lawsuit asks the city to pay a $10,000 fine for every day it doesn’t install air conditioning or repair mold problems.