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Family Of Cook County Jail Inmate Who Died Of COVID-19 Files Lawsuit, Takes Issue With Practice Of Shackling Inmates To Hospital Beds

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A lawsuit was filed against the Cook County Sheriff's office Thursday by the family of a man who died of coronavirus while an inmate at the Cook County Jail.

The suit in particular took issue with the policy of shackling inmates to hospital beds.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court by Warren Pendleton and Donnell Todd, the brothers of Jeffrey Pendleton.

Jeffrey Pendleton, 59, was pronounced dead at Stroger Hospital of Cook County at 9:49 p.m. Sunday.

He had been at Stroger since the Monday before after testing positive for COVID-19, the Sheriff's office said.

The lawsuit named Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and the County of Cook itself as defendants.

The suit said Pendleton was transferred to Stroger Hospital on March 30 to be treated for COVID-19, and said whenever a jail inmate is transferred to Stronger, the sheriff's policy is for the inmate to be shackled hand and foot to the bed despite a 24-hour armed guard being there.

The suit said the Sheriff's office has been on notice since at least 2000 that the policy of shackling inmates to hospital beds might violate the Fourteenth Amendment.

The suit also said 251 Cook County Jail detainees had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Wednesday, and 22 were being treated at local hospitals while 31 were at a recovery facility.

The suit called for injunctive relief for inmates with COVID-19 who are shackled to beds as a class.

Pendleton was booked into the jail on July 24, 2018 on charges including being an armed habitual criminal, armed violence, and other drug and weapons offenses, the sheriff's office said.

He received a bond review on March 26, but a motion to reduce his $50,000 bond was denied, the sheriff's office said. He had 15 previous convictions and was a registered sex offender for a 1997 conviction of aggravated criminal sexual assault – for which he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

On Thursday, a federal judge denied the request for a mass release of inmates at the jail due to COVID-19 concerns, but ordered Sheriff Dart to implement new safety measures to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The jail has been called the single largest coronavirus hotspot in the country, but Dart claims their numbers are higher because they are testing more aggressively. He said the numbers also include 150 COVID-positive sheriff's staff‚ some of whom don't actually work inside the jail facility.

"They threw in employees who are police officers who have never been in the jail, clerks who have never been in the jail," he said. "So that's a bit of a problem. My 5-year-old would have nailed the math a little better than they did."

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