A man who was trapped inside the Cook County Jail for more than 30 hours earlier this month filed suit against the county Monday, saying he was handcuffed and questioned after he was found.
The detail came out at a Monday news conference with Farad Polk, 51, of Chicago, who was trapped in a room in the jail, where he had gone July 5 to visit his incarcerated son.
The lawsuit, filed in Cook County Court, alleges that county officials were negligent in allowing Polk to enter an 8-by-8-foot room he thought was a visiting area and then get stuck inside of it alone without food, water, bedding or a toilet for 32 hours. The suit also alleges county officials “willfully and wantonly” allowed the incident to occur, among other allegations.
The room where Polk was trapped is a visitation area for supermaximum-security prisoners that was unoccupied at the time and where contractors had been working.
Polk’s attorney, Cannon Lambert, said that his client was initially handcuffed and questioned when officials found him in the room and “we have a problem with that.”
Polk, who said he used to visit his son in jail weekly, said he wondered during his confinement whether he would ever see his grandchildren’s faces again. He said he’s been trying to keep busy since the incident because if he doesn’t, the thoughts and feelings he had while trapped pop up in his mind.
Lambert would not allow Polk to discuss in detail those thoughts and feelings Monday.
“Any time I get some down time, it just keeps coming,” Polk said, adding he had little sense of how long he’d been in the room.
“I had actually lost track of time because there was no way to tell time,” Polk told reporters.
At times while trapped, Polk said, he prayed or attempted to sleep on the concrete floor of the room, where no working cameras or communications devices had been installed, according to Lambert.
“All kinds of things that he was worried about ran through his mind,” Lambert said, adding “that 30 hours … it felt like 300 to him.”
Lambert said Polk at one point had to defecate in the room.
Lambert also said Polk could hear guards talking outside the room he was trapped in, which raises the questions about why they couldn’t hear him kicking the door and yelling underneath it.
“There are a whole lot of questions they’re going to have to answer,” Lambert said of county officials.
Polk also lifted his hand Monday, showing three stitches that remain in his left thumb, which he injured as he reached to activate a sprinkler on the ceiling, which finally led officials to locate him, Lambert said.
The suit does not specify a dollar amount but seeks compensation for physical, emotional and psychological injuries, according to the lawsuit.
Cara Smith, director of the Cook County Jail, said Monday that the lawsuit filing wasn’t a surprise.
“It does not change our reaction to this unfortunate incident,” Smith said. “We remain very sorry for what Mr. Polk went through and focused on making sure it does not happen again.”
Smith said the jail has been examining and reinforcing its visitor process throughout the compound.