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State

Ill. county settles lawsuit by 3 former inmates

BELLEVILLE (AP) — A southwestern Illinois county has agreed to pay $3,500 to each of three former inmates who filed a federal lawsuit over allegedly poor living conditions at the jail, the sheriff said.

The settlement and payouts to Floyd Robinson, Timothy Headrick and Myron Barber come without the county admitting any wrongdoing alleged in the 2011 lawsuit, St. Clair County Sheriff Rick Watson told the Belleville News-Democrat (http://bit.ly/MEdcsj ) for a story Friday.

The ex-inmates alleged that jail conditions were unacceptable and included crowding, inmates forced to sleep on the floor, the foul odor of human waste, insects, mice, small amounts of food per serving and inadequate access to a law library.

The inmates originally sought $100 million for alleged violations of their constitutional rights while they were housed in the 44-year-old building.

While state officials believe the building is able to house 418 inmates, the lockup from mid-December through the middle of January averaged 504 inmates a day.

Watson said a proposed $37 million expansion of the jail would render future lawsuits moot.

"The root of the issue is if we get this overcrowding addressed they have no reason to file suit. That's what the root of the whole issue is," Watson told the newspaper. "That's the other thing people don't realize when we're talking about overcrowding — the county settling lawsuits. We house them here for a while and give them a check when they leave. I don't like it, and as a taxpayer in St. Clair County I don't like it."

County leaders are asking voters in March to approve a new sales tax to fund the expansion. The proposed tax is expected to generate up to $5 million a year, be retired after 25 years and not be applied to groceries, medicine and medical supplies.

The newspaper reported earlier this week that the county also agreed to pay up to $2,000 to each of three former jail inmates who sued over alleged guard abuse.

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Information from: Belleville News-Democrat, http://www.bnd.com

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