ACLU sues DuPage sheriff to ensure future inmate doesn't go through withdrawal symptoms

  • DuPage County Sheriff Jim Mendrick is being sued by the ACLU, which wants an emergency injunction allowing a woman to continue taking methadone when she begins serving a 60-day sentence in the county jail later this month.

      DuPage County Sheriff Jim Mendrick is being sued by the ACLU, which wants an emergency injunction allowing a woman to continue taking methadone when she begins serving a 60-day sentence in the county jail later this month. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer, 2019

 
Posted2/12/2021 5:30 AM

Withholding methadone from a person addicted to opiates would constitute cruel and unusual punishment. So says the American Civil Liberties Union in a federal lawsuit it filed recently against DuPage County Sheriff James Mendrick.

At the center of the case is a Chicago woman due to report to the county jail Feb. 25 to serve a 60-day sentence for driving under the influence in 2016. She pleaded guilty Jan. 28.

 

Christine Finnigan, 53, has been taking methadone for 1½ years. The narcotic is used to treat opioid use disorder.

She fears she will be cut off once she enters the jail, leading her to suffer withdrawal symptoms like abdominal cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, tremors, body aches, anxiety and more.

"I am horrified and afraid of going through detox while in jail," Finnigan said via the ACLU. "I have gone through detox before without medication and know the pain and trauma. I nearly died. I just want to take the medication that has been prescribed for me."

Finnigan has asked a federal judge to grant an emergency injunction ordering the jail to give her methadone when she begins her sentence.

Too soon?

Mendrick declined direct comment on the lawsuit through spokesman Justin Kmitch, who added that the sheriff's office cannot discuss inmates' medical particulars.

However, Kmitch noted that Mendrick's office has relationships with several drug treatment facilities in the area and a track record of getting assistance to inmates battling addiction.

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Last year, the sheriff's office launched a program in which the jail provides the drug Vivitrol seven to 10 days before the release of inmates suffering from opioid cravings. The jail also planned to offer inmates Suboxone to help with withdrawal.

In a legal response to the suit, Mendrick's lawyers say Finnigan's request should be denied because it is premature. Since she has not been admitted to the jail, she hasn't been denied anything or suffered any harm, they say.

Furthermore, they argue, the court shouldn't substitute its judgment for that of the jail's medical personnel, who will evaluate Finnigan if she is admitted.

The ACLU says that won't do, because it can take as long as two weeks for the medical evaluation to be completed.

The request for the emergency injunction will be heard Feb. 19.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Shades of litigation past

This isn't the first time the DuPage sheriff's office has been taken to court over its treatment of an inmate battling addiction. In 2016, a Lombard-area man sued the previous sheriff's administration after his 21-year-old son died in jail custody while suffering from heroin withdrawal.

The federal lawsuit alleged Sebastiano Ceraulo displayed obvious signs of withdrawal after he was incarcerated Jan. 4, 2016. He had been detained on charges he violated an earlier probation sentence by failing a drug test, and jailers had other information to indicate he struggled with addiction, the suit claimed.

Despite this, the suit contended, the jail failed to provide adequate medical care, even as Ceraulo's condition worsened. He died three days later as a result of electrolyte imbalance and dehydration -- both common side effects of heroin withdrawal.

The suit was settled out of court in July 2019. Terms were not disclosed.

State takes aim at expressway shootings

There were an unprecedented 128 shootings on Cook County expressways last year, leaving seven people dead and 65 others injured.

Things already are looking worse in 2021 -- 27 shootings just through Wednesday, three of them fatal and 11 others leaving people wounded. That's on pace for more than 200 shootings, 22 of them fatal.

Police investigating shootings on Cook County expressways, like this one in 2017 on the Chicago Skyway, has become an all-too-common sight in recent years. Now state officials hope to do something about it by installing automated license plate readers at 47 locations.
Police investigating shootings on Cook County expressways, like this one in 2017 on the Chicago Skyway, has become an all-too-common sight in recent years. Now state officials hope to do something about it by installing automated license plate readers at 47 locations. - Alyssa Pointer/Chicago Tribune via AP, 2017

Hoping to put an end to the carnage, or at least bring justice to those responsible, the Illinois Department of Transportation announced Thursday it is giving state police $12.5 million to buy and install automated license plate readers.

The readers will be placed at 47 locations and help state police investigate expressway shootings.

The measure was made possible by the Tamara Clayton Expressway Camera Act. Clayton was a postal worker who was shot and killed in February 2019 while driving to work on Interstate 57 near South suburban Country Club Hills. Her killer has not been captured.

"No one should feel afraid for their life or safety on Illinois expressways, and I've directed my administration to work collaboratively and creatively to ensure we have assets in place to protect the public," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Thursday in an announcement of the funding. "Tamara Clayton's tragic death must not be forgotten, and we must do everything we can to prevent more expressway shootings."

St. Charles woman's killer loses appeal

Upholding a warrantless police search that led to a grisly discovery, a state appeals court this week denied a new trial for the convicted killer of a St. Charles woman.

Michael Kulpin
Michael Kulpin

Michael Kulpin, who's serving a 63-year sentence for the 2016 slaying of Moorea Des Roches, was asking the appellate court to throw out his murder conviction because, he argued, police illegally searched his DeKalb apartment in June 2016.

Officers found the body of Des Roches, Kulpin's 19-year-old girlfriend, wrapped in a blanket and shower curtain and stuffed in a closet. She had been beaten with a frying pan and stabbed and slashed with a knife 27 times, authorities said.

Although police had neither a warrant nor consent, the appellate court ruled that the search fell under an "emergency-assistance" exception. The exception allows police to enter a property without a warrant if they have legitimate reason to believe someone is in danger or needs immediate assistance.

In Kulpin's case, the court ruled, a host of circumstances led police to believe Des Roches -- missing for more than a day by that point -- could be at risk and in the apartment.

"Collectively, the officers knew that Moorea was not at work, her car was in the apartment building's parking lot, defendant lied about her whereabouts, and he was not sure how many people were in his apartment," Justice Kathryn E. Zenoff wrote. "Further, the officers determined that (Kulpin) was under the influence of drugs, drugs were present inside the apartment, and defendant had a history of violence toward Moorea."

Kulpin is serving his time at the downstate Menard Correctional Center. He's not eligible for parole until June 2076.

• Got a question, comment or a tip? Email us at copsandcrime@dailyherald.com.

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