A federal judge today granted preliminary approval to a $4.1 million settlement of a class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of a group of female detainees at the Cook County Jail who claimed they were shackled while they were pregnantand in labor, despite a state law banning the practice.
Unless objections are raised, roughly 80 female plaintiffs will each get an average of $35,000. But the more important victory, said plaintiff’s attorney Thomas Morrissey, was the fact that “we actually stopped the practice” of shackling pregnant detainees in Cook County.
Since the civil rights suit was filed, he said, “the county and sheriff have moved toward a more humane method of handling women who are pregnant and in labor. And I think this settlement fairly compensates the women for the past injuries that they suffered.”
The settlement, given preliminary approval by U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve, caps a long debate around the issue of shackling pregnant detainees and comes after years in which the Cook County sheriff’s office, which runs the jail, has gradually relaxed its regulations.
The sheriff’s office said it agreed to settle for expediency’s sake and that the move was in no way an admission of wrongdoing.
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