Federal oversight of Cermak Health Services dissolved

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Cook County Jail at 2700 S. California Ave. | Santiago Covarrubias/Sun-Times

Cermak Health Services is free from an eight-year-old consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice, a U.S. District court decided Tuesday.

The county-operated hospital, located at Cook County Jail, was found to have “systematically violated inmates’ constitutional rights by the use of excessive force by staff.”

There were three parties to the decree — the county’s sheriff’s office, the county’s facilities department and Cermak Health Services. The Justice Department’s finding of excessive force was on the sheriff’s office, according to Caryn Stancik, a spokesperson for the county’s health and hospitals system.

In a statement from the Department of Justice when the decree went into effect in 2010, officials also cited “the failure to protect inmates from harm by fellow inmates, inadequate medical and mental health care, and a lack of adequate fire safety and sanitation” as a reason for the decree.

County officials were then tasked with developing policies and procedures to ensure constitutionally adequate medical and mental health care, including suicide prevention.

On Tuesday, that decree was dissolved by U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall.

“For the past decade, Cermak Correctional Health Services has worked closely with the Justice Department, the court-appointed monitors and the Cook County Department of Corrections to institute best practices in the areas of physical and mental health,” Jay Shannon, CEO of the Cook County Health and Hospitals System, said in a statement.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said she was “grateful” for the decision.

In a tweeted statement, she said, “I’m proud the court noted the policies and practices at Cermak that support the constitutional rights of detainees in healthcare are in full compliance.”

Clarification: This article has been updated since it was originally published to provide more context on the parties of the consent decree and which parties were accused of using excessive force.

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