CHICAGO (AP) — Guards at one of the nation's largest jails systematically engage in "sadistic violence and brutality" against inmates, according to a federal class-action lawsuit filed on Thursday.
But an official responsible for overseeing the Cook County Jail, Sheriff Tom Dart, told reporters the lawsuit was an exaggeration and, taken as a whole, was "a fictional account."
Lawyers filed the 59-page suit in U.S. District Court in Chicago on behalf of male inmates at the sprawling Chicago jail, which the filing says is overcrowded with 2,000 male inmates at any one time.
The lawsuit says officers sometimes threaten inmates with code words for beatings, asking if they want "an elevator ride," where cameras can't record attacks.
"The sadistic violence and brutality ... is not the work of a few rogue officers," the lawsuit alleges. "It is a systemic problem."
The lawsuit also says isolation cells are "unfit for human habitation" because they are "filthy, often streaked with feces and reeking of urine."
A U.S. Department of Justice case led to a 2010 consent decree in which Cook County pledged to provide safe living conditions for inmates and allow independent monitors to conduct reports of the jail twice a year.
"However, little has changed," the lawsuit says.