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Officials: Inmate escapee shouldn’t have been working at animal facility

Vincent Tervel

Vincent Tervel

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Updated: November 2, 2013 6:20AM

A Cook County jail inmate who got away from Chicago’s Animal Care and Control facility had a violent history that should have disqualified him from that work detail, the sheriff’s office acknowledged Monday.

Cara Smith, chief of policy and communications for the sheriff’s office, said an investigation is under way to determine who is responsible for waiving the rules to benefit Vincent Tervel.

On Saturday, Tervel was one of 16 inmates assigned to clean dog kennels and feed and water dogs when he walked away from the city pound at 2741 S. Western shortly before noon. He was re-captured four hours later at a North Side fast food restaurant 10 miles away.

Tervel, 36, was being held at the jail on charges of possessing burglary tools and stealing copper from gravestones at Rosehill Cemetery. But he also was awaiting trial in Kendall County for aggravated assault and attempting to run over a police officer.

“He should not have been in the program. He didn’t qualify for it because of his criminal history. His holding offense was a burglary offense, but he had other criminal history that should have disqualified him. And he hadn’t been on the tier long enough” to qualify for the work detail, Smith said Monday.

“We will discipline or pursue criminal charges against whoever was responsible for getting him into that work assignment.”

Two years ago, the City Council signed off on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to put Cook County Jail detainees to work at the city pound to improve conditions for animals and reduce taxpayer-funded overtime.

At the time, the city pound had a daily population of 500 dogs and cats but didn’t have enough volunteers to provide the level of care that animals deserve.

Skeptical alderman approved the mayor’s plan, only after being assured that inmates would be closely-supervised and that the work detail would be confined to non-violent offenders.

In exchange, the city agreed to pay the sheriff’s office $231,059 a year, with an annual increase of 5 percent to reimburse the sheriff for the cost of administering the program.

“Inmates will be searched prior to getting into the van, searched getting out of the van. There’ll be an inmate count to make sure everybody’s there. A chase car will follow the van. While they’re in the facility, they’ll be supervised by two correctional officers. Then, on the way out, they’ll be searched, placed back in the van and brought back to jail,” Marty Stack, an attorney for the sheriff’s office, said at the time.

On Monday, Smith said the sheriff’s office is investigating “supervision in the kennel.”

But she said, “The program is a tremendous program that’s rewarding for both detainees and the facility. Up until this time, we’ve had no glitches, other than having an inmate get nipped by a dog. This is an anomaly and we’re going to hold every single person responsible accountable in one way or another.”


Twitter: @fspielman

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