A recent report by the National Conference of State Legislatures shows that the vast majority of state legislators do not believe white people should be allowed to enter the Cook-County Jail.
“This study is an indictment of our current system, of the lack of trust that exists between black and white residents of the state,” Rep. David N. Rankin (D-Ill.) said in a statement.
“While we all want to see the jail closed to the public, I don’t believe it should be the only place where people can get their ‘rights,'” Rankin added.
The report, commissioned by the NAACP, was released in response to a lawsuit filed by a white inmate who claimed that the Cook county jail is racially segregated against white inmates.
Rankins report noted that while black inmates are not confined in separate jails and are not allowed to contact white inmates, they are subjected to harsh treatment at the hands of the jail’s staff.
In the report, Rankin’s office noted that Cook County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson “has long been a proponent of the use of segregation and ‘separate and unequal’ policing to keep black men and women in prison.”
Rankin said that he and his staff were unaware of any prior complaints about the Cook’s Detention Center, adding that the current administration had made it clear that he was not happy with the situation.
“I was unaware that there had been a history of discrimination at this facility,” Rankin told Fox News.
“When I became sheriff I asked the chief deputy, I asked everybody, how long had you been there?
What happened to the people who were in segregation?”
In his report, NCSL said that while it was possible that Hodgson was unaware of the segregation, “his continued use of this facility has created an environment where a disproportionate number of black people are subjected, in some instances, to cruel and unusual punishment.”
Rankins office said that since Hodgson became sheriff, “he has made significant efforts to increase access to medical care and improved the health and safety of his staff and prisoners.”
“While I have personally witnessed and experienced the challenges of segregation, I cannot comment on any individual cases,” Rankins spokesperson, Marylou Moseley, said in an email.
“We are committed to ensuring that everyone in the Cook and Cook County jail is treated with dignity and respect.”
The Cook County sheriff has long been known for his controversial handling of inmate issues.
In a series of court rulings, he was found guilty in 2016 of racially profiling black residents, while in 2017, a federal judge ruled that he could not fire a corrections officer who used racial slurs toward black inmates.
In 2015, the federal government launched a lawsuit against the sheriff for racial discrimination, saying that the county failed to ensure the safety of inmates, the medical care of inmates and the “safety of the public.”
The federal lawsuit has since been settled, and Hodgson resigned.
Rankings office also said that the sheriff’s office has made “significant improvements” to its prison treatment and that he had “made significant strides in improving the inmate and correctional treatment” of black inmates in the jail.
However, the Cook Correctional Institution (CCI), where Hodgson’s office is located, has yet to open.
According to NCSLC, a spokesperson for the county jail confirmed that the facility was open for business in February, but that the “staff has been working diligently to restore operational control.”
The county has a population of 1.6 million, but Hodgson told the Chicago Tribune in 2017 that the prison is only for about 800 inmates.
“The population at the CCCI is about 1,000, and the prison population is about 400,” the spokesperson said.
“They are all housed in the same building.”