Since January 2008, over 500 workers’ compensation claims have been filed by Menard guards. Most of the claims seek compensation for so-called “repetitive trauma” injuries caused by manually locking and unlocking cells. Menard, which opened in 1878, does not have electric locks; the Illinois Department of Corrections (DOC) says it would be too expensive to replace the manual locks.
Claims by guards at Menard have cost the state almost $10 million as of December 2010, including $5.9 million for repetitive trauma. Some 389 prison employees – over half the workforce at Menard – have received workers’ comp settlements. Records show that most of the claims were paid without opposition from the state.
Dave Rednour, Menard’s warden, received one of the largest settlements – some $75,678. DOC spokesperson Sharyn Elman declined to comment about the payment to Rednour, calling it a “personnel issue.”
IWCC chairman Mitch Weisz has publicly questioned the veracity of the guards’ claims. “It’s hard for me to imagine it’s all kosher,” he remarked.
Deputy attorney general Cara Smith, a spokesperson for the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, said all repetitive trauma claims are being reevaluated, particularly those filed by prison guards.
The Illinois legislature has since passed a bill to revise the state’s workers’ compensation law in order to address the apparent fraud associated with repetitive trauma claims. The bill would reduce medical fees and cap settlements for such claims.
“This is a scandal that nobody knows about,” said Gene Keefe, a Chicago attorney who handles workers’ compensation cases. “If you’re an outsider looking in, you can’t get your arms around this.”
Despite ongoing state and federal investigations into fraudulent workers’ comp claims at Menard, guards and other employees at the prison filed 59 new injury claims from January to June 2011. Of those, 28 involved repetitive trauma.
Sources: www.chicagotribune.com, www.bnd.com
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