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Cook County Commissioners Approve $1.5 Million Settlement for Jail Beating

by Chad Marks

Irene Nash, suffering from bipolar disorder, found herself on the wrong side of the law when she returned to her former childhood home. She entered the house and drank a bottle of wine. It was not long before the homeowners arrived, discovered her in the house and called police.

The house, in Wilmette, Illinois, no longer belonged to Nash’s parents. They had sold it, but Nash had forgotten in large part due to her mental health issues. She was arrested in 2010 for entering the home and eventually was found unfit to stand trial.

In September 2013, Nash was booked into the Cook County Jail. Once there, it was determined she should be housed in a unit for prisoners with psychiatric problems. Rather than being placed in that unit, however, she was sent to the general population. 

That proved to be disastrous, as she began talking to herself, which angered another prisoner. That prisoner, who had a history of violence and mental illness, brutally assaulted Nash. As a result of the beating, she was transported to a hospital with massive bleeding on her brain; she was in a coma for a month and later required rehabilitation at a nursing home for three years.

The Cook County Board of Commissioners subsequently agreed to pay a $1.5 million settlement in compensation for her injuries, though no county officials wanted to accept blame for placing her in the jail’s general population.

Cara Smith, a spokeswoman for the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, said it was not the jail’s job to diagnose detainees, and placed blame on the Cook County Hospitals System, arguing the hospital was supposed to diagnose Nash.

However, a spokesperson for the hospital system did not accept responsibility either, saying in a written statement, “We were not defendants in this case nor were we consulted in the settlement discussion/decision.” 

Bradley Schulman, the attorney who represented Nash, stated, “Cook County Jail should not have placed a nonviolent psychiatric patient in the same cell with a bipolar violent offender who was off her medication.” See: Edward Nash, Guardian for Estate of Irene Nash v. Sheriff of Cook County, Cook County Circuit Court (IL), Case No. 14 L 4174. 

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Additional sources: chicagotribune.com, U.S. News & World Report

Related legal case

Edward Nash, Guardian for Estate of Irene Nash v. Sheriff of Cook County