HAMMOND | Lake County has agreed to pay $7.2 million to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by inmates who complained about jail conditions, court records show.
U.S. District Court Judge Philip Simon on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to the settlement agreement and will hold a final approval hearing at 9:30 a.m. Dec. 14.
Inmates who were confined for 24 hours or longer in a holding cell at the Lake County Jail between May 13, 2006, and Feb. 1 will be eligible to submit a claim for payment from the settlement, according to the agreement. Thousands of people are believed to be eligible.
Attorney Samantha Liskow said letters will be sent to people who have been identified as meeting that criteria. The claim information also will be published in various newspapers.
"We are very happy with the settlement because many individuals will be compensated, and also because we are hopeful that the jail is moving toward improved conditions for the detainees," Liskow said.
She works for Loevy & Loevy, a Chicago-based civil rights firm that is representing all the inmates involved in the class-action suit.
The amount each person will be compensated depends on the number of inmates and the length of time he or she spent in a jail holding cell.
Gerald Bishop, who represented county officials in the lawsuit, could not be reached Tuesday for comment.
Richard Flood, Roberto Cantu, Terrance Smith, Patrick Flood, Jacqueline Drankus, Edward Walker and David Kurcz sued the county, former Lake County Sheriff Roy Dominguez, former jail Warden Caren Jones, former Warden Benny Freeman and unknown jail supervisors in 2008, arguing the jail conditions were "inhumane."
They claimed inmates were held for weeks or months in overcrowded holding cells after their arrival and had to sleep directly on concrete. They also claimed medical care was "nearly nonexistent" and the floor of the jail had human waste on it, according to the initial complaint.