For the second time in two months, the Cook County Department of Corrections had to lock down inmates because of a mass guard call-off.
The Cook County Sheriff’s Office said 317 guards took off the Father’s Day shift off on Sunday, June 19. This came on the heels of the 464 call-offs on Mother’s Day, which led to a 24-hour lockdown.
Cara Smith, Cook County Sheriff’s Office chief of policy and communications, said there are roughly five times a year when guards call off in such high numbers that the jail has to lock down. “When we have significant numbers of call-offs, they coincide with three events. Sometimes those events coincide with each other: holidays, weather and sporting events.”
The call-offs on June 19 coincided with Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
Smith said there’s nothing the jail can do about the call-offs because so many workers are invoking the Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, for reasons such as headaches and back pain.
“Thirty percent of our officers have FMLA coverage, and 90 percent of that number are permitted to use it intermittently,” Smith said. “It’s a very tricky problem and I don’t know that there’s any particularly successful way of dealing with it. You can ask for a doctor’s note if you suspect that the person wasn’t sick, but in large jails like the Cook County Jail, it’s a matter of scale.”
The Mother’s Day absences cost the county $75,000 in overtime costs.
Smith said a lockdown is different from solitary confinement, and during a lockdown the inmates are still allowed to interact.
Sunday’s lockdown was lifted Monday morning.
Cole Lauterbach ([email protected]) is a reporter for the Illinois News Network, a project of the Illinois Policy Institute. An earlier version of this article first appeared at http://ilnews.org/8385/fathers-day-nba-game-7-cost-cook-county-taxpayers/. Reprinted with permission.