Inside Cook County Jail visitor's accidental prison

Wednesday, July 16, 2014
cook county jail visitor imprisoned
The Cook County Sheriff's Department released a photograph of the room where a visitor accidentally became imprisoned for nearly 32 hours.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- For the first time, we're getting a look at the small room where a visitor to the Cook County Jail accidentally became imprisoned for nearly 32 hours.

The Cook County Sheriff's Department released a photograph of the room to ABC7 Eyewitness News. It shows a roughly 8x8 room with cinder block walls, a concrete floor, steel door and a lone metal stool.

Chicago resident Farad Polk became trapped in the room just before 6 p.m. on Saturday, July 5, and wasn't discovered until roughly 1:30 a.m. on Monday, July 7. Polk had gone to the jail to visit his son, who is locked up on drug charges.

Polk says a corrections officer told him to head down a hall in Division 9 of the jail and wait for his son to be brought to him. Jail officials say Polk made a wrong turn and entered an unused maximum security visiting room with a propped open door that immediately locked behind him.

"After five minutes, I'm like 'this ain't right, this ain't happening.' So as I turned around to buzz out, there ain't no buzzer. No buzzer, no intercom, just a room," Polk said Monday.

As minutes turned to hours, Polk said he became increasingly concerned no one would find him. What did he do? "Kicking the door, screaming, hollerin' up, screaming under the door," Polk said. It was all to no avail.

"He could hear voices of guards on the other side of the door. Presumptively, if he could hear them, they could hear him," said Cannon Lambert, Polk's attorney. Polk is suing Cook County over the ordeal.

Jail guards were only alerted to Mr. Polk's presence after he broke a sprinkler head, causing a flood that triggered a fire alarm. The executive director of the Cook County Jail admits mistakes were made, has ordered changes to procedures and offered Polk an apology.

"In a perfect world, we would know every single person that enters the jail, whether they were visitors, inmates, workers and staff, and every single person that's left. That didn't happen that night," said Cara Smith, executive director, Cook County Jail.

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