Weather Updates

Trapped in visitor room at jail, man ‘thought he might die,’ attorney says

Farad Polk 'thought he might die' while being trapped room Cook County Jail for about 30 hours his attorney said.

Farad Polk "thought he might die" while being trapped in a room at the Cook County Jail for about 30 hours, his attorney said. | Sun-Times File Photo

storyidforme: 68999191
tmspicid: 24462954
fileheaderid: 12205939

Updated: August 13, 2014 6:08AM

Farad Polk began yelling and kicking the door when he realized he’d been accidentally locked in a visiting room at the Cook County Jail on Saturday afternoon.

His regular visit to see his son, who’s an inmate, turned into a 30-hour nightmare.

“He kicked the door so much he couldn’t kick any longer because his foot was sore,” said Polk’s attorney, Michael Richmond, who recounted his clients struggle this week. “At one point, he thought he heard voices, but no one came.”

Richmond used the only tool he had on him, a metal key, to try to escape.

“He used it to try to dig out the edges of a glass partition that was surrounded by some sort of cork. He tried to dig the cork out, but he said he got nowhere,” Richmond said Thursday.

Polk, 51, who had no phone or watch, lost track of time.

“He thought he might die in there,” Richmond said. “He’d lay down on the floor and close his eyes and drift off to sleep, and it would refresh him a little bit and clear his mind and he’d attack the problem again.”

He examined whether there was an escape route through the ceiling, but saw no way out.

“Eventually he saw a metal cap on the ceiling and pulled it down and bashed the sprinkler underneath with part of a chair that was in the room and water started gushing out.” Richmond said. “But it wasn’t like the sprinkler just went off, water was gushing out and started to fill the room . . . he didn’t know if he was going to drown . . . he climbed onto a countertop in the room. The water got up significantly.”

The sprinkler set off an alarm and firefighters arrived at 1:30 a.m. Monday.

Polk, who’d opened a gash on a thumb while banging the sprinkler, was handcuffed behind his back while details of why he was in the room were sorted out.

“He told them his story, but they had to verify it before they could help him,” said Richmond. “They could have assumed he was an inmate trying to escape.”

At least an hour passed before he was taken to a hospital where he received three stitches, said Richmond, who slammed the jail’s visiting process. “It was negligence, upon negligence, upon negligence.”

Polk is back at his West Side home but is not doing well, Richmond said. “He spent 30 hours in hell.”

Richmond said his client wasn’t ready to talk publicly about being trapped.

Richmond filed a petition Thursday in Cook County Circuit Court, seeking surveillance footage and witness statements, possibly setting the stage for a lawsuit against the county.

According to Cara Smith, executive director of the jail, Polk’s son had been transferred from the Division 11 holding area at 3015 S. California Blvd. to Division 9 — an area he’d never been to — which is at 2854 W. 31st St., on the jail compound.

When he entered, Polk was processed and directed to “go down the hallway and turn to the right.” But he went through the wrong visitor door, which was propped open, and it shut and locked behind him, Smith said earlier this week. A contractor had been installing new cameras in the room earlier in the day.

The steel door and concrete walls were too thick for anyone to have heard Polk, Smith said.

According to the petition filed Tuesday, Polk was “deprived of food, water, bathroom facilities and any contact with the outside world,” and suffered “extreme mental anguish.”

Polk wants to be allowed back into the jail with his attorney and a photographer to inspect “all relevant areas” within the next two weeks, the petition says.

“While we thank God he’s safe, we’re looking at every single aspect of this case,” Smith said. “This has never happened, to my knowledge, before.”

Richmond said Polk was unemployed. A friend said Polk is a former auto mechanic.

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.