Mt. Vernon Register-News

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May 23, 2013

Federal inmate lawsuit dismissed

MT. VERNON — A lawsuit filed by former Immigrations Customs Enforcement prisoners against Jefferson County has been dismissed.The federal lawsuit was filed in February on behalf of seven immigrants who were held at the Jefferson County Justice Center. The detainees alleged they were held under unsanitary conditions and had inadequate health care.Chairman Robert White was informed of the dismissal by Sheriff Roger Mulch on Monday. The court's finding was received by White on Wednesday.Jeannine Gilleran of the firm Litchfield Cavo LLP, based in Chicago, informed county officials the lawsuit was brought before a magistrate, who dismissed the lawsuit."The Court dismissed the amended complaint finding that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the claim against us and the federal defendants. Accordingly, the case is dismissed," Gilleran wrote to White and Mulch in an e-mail. "For now the case is over, but don't be surprised if they (plaintiffs) file something at a later date."The lawsuit was filed by Heartland Alliance's National Immigrant Justice Center in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. The lawsuit sought no monetary judgment, but aimed to keep ICE from housing detainees at the facility until problems were addressed.In addition to White and Mulch, the lawsuit named ICE Field Director Richardo Wong, their contracting officer's technical representative Christopher L. McDaniels, and ICE Detention Service Manager John Doe."The Court ruled their claims had no standing, and I think that's exactly the way it should be," Mulch said. "We have lawsuits filed against us all the time. The sad part of it is it takes money to defend these frivolous lawsuits. I've asked the attorneys to look into what relief we have, if any."White said, "I felt there wasn't any merit to the lawsuit," referring further comments to the attorney involved in the case. Heartland Alliance alleged documented reports of MRSA, tuberculosis, respiratory infections and skin funguses which occurred among the jail's ICE populations in the weeks leading up to the evacuation of ICE prisoners in December, according to an earlier news release. The lawsuit stated detainee requests for medical treatment were routinely ignored. It also alleged drinking water was brown and putrid, showers and restrooms were mold-encrusted, jail pots were poorly ventilated, jail uniforms were dirty and torn, and detainees had no outdoor recreation or meaningful access to sunlight.Last week, county officials were told ICE would not return prisoners to Jefferson County without a full inspection, and the earliest one could be scheduled is October. County officials have indicated they have given up hope on receiving ICE prisoners this fiscal year, which ends Nov. 30, and may not pursue any future agreements with the federal agency.

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