As civil order collapses in Chicago, gang leader enforces 'reign of terror' in Cook County Jail

Street gangs have turned Chicago's streets into killing grounds.  More than 3,000 people have been shot on its streets so far this year, and there have been 676 homicides.  The police, thoroughly demoralized, underfunded, and under Department of Justice orders that make stop and frisk all but unthinkable, have no ability to keep them in check.

And once criminals are apprehended and incarcerated, the forces of civic order have lost control.  Sam Charles of the Chicago Sun-Times documents an astounding "reign of terror" in the Cook County Jail by gang leader Labar "Bro Man" Spann:

While locked up at the Cook County Jail, reputed West Side gang leader Labar "Bro Man" Spann wanted everyone – jail guards, other inmates, the medical staff, even janitors – to know just how much power he wielded.

"I run this s—," Spann, who's now facing new, federal charges that accuse him of taking part in six killings, told another inmate in 2005, according to records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times. "No matter where you go on this compound, I'll have your s— split."

Between late 2003 and mid-2007, the Cook County sheriff's office cited Spann – reputed boss of the brutal Four Corner Hustlers street gang – 17 times in disciplinary complaints, the records show.

In one instance, while threatening a corrections officer, Spann alluded to several unsolved murders having been carried out by his gang, according to the records.

Another time, they show, Spann sent a guard to the emergency room after attacking him with the wheelchair he's used since being shot more than a decade ago.

There are more incidents cited, and then we learn:

Spann routinely escaped punishment by the Cook County Jail Disciplinary Hearing Board – largely because the board didn't hold hearings on the complaints against him soon enough, the Sun-Times found.

The panel is required by law to hold a hearing on any allegation of misconduct by someone held at the jail typically within seven days, depending on the severity of the infraction.

But in 11 of the 17 jailhouse disciplinary cases against Spann, it failed to do that, according to Cara Smith, a top aide to Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.

"They didn't hear [the cases] within the timeframe," Smith says.

Asked why not, Smith says a backlog of cases at the time – when Dart's immediate predecessor, Michael Sheahan, was sheriff – likely was the reason. "Right now, we don't have a backlog," she says.

Spann didn't deny wrongdoing in 14 of the cases – including the one in which he was accused of bragging about "numerous unsolved murders" committed by his gang and telling a corrections officer, "You're going to be next."

Yet he wasn't punished after being accused of making that threat, jail records show.

The board – which has the authority to impose punishments as severe as "restrictive custody," in which a detainee's jailhouse privileges are restricted – found Spann "guilty as charged" in only three cases.

For those, he was ordered to spend a total of 58 days in restrictive custody during the 3½-year period he spent at the Cook County Jail. He also was ordered to undergo psychological evaluations following five of the incidents. And he got a single "verbal reprimand."

And how did he wield such influence?

In March 2004, records show Spann told a corrections officer: "Your kids and your family are going to die, m———–, and then I'm going to kill your b—-! I'm gonna f— you up right now, I'm gonna shank you the first chance I get!"

In that case, the disciplinary board didn't punish Spann but ordered him to undergo a psychological evaluation, records show.

No wonder ordinary people cannot anticipate living their lives in a degree of security commensurate with a First World city.

For example (via Chicago Tribune):

Cyynthia and John Trevillion, both longtime teachers at the Chicago Waldorf School in Rogers Park, were trying to catch a train at the Morse CTA station, a few blocks from their home, to meet up with friends Friday night.

At the sound of rapid gunshots, John quickly dropped to the ground. But Cynthia, 64, didn't make it in time. She was fatally hit in the head and pronounced dead at Presence St. Francis Hospital in Evanston just before 7:20 p.m. An autopsy Saturday determined she died of a gunshot wound to the head and neck and her death was ruled a homicide, officials said.

"I was right beside her. I saw and heard the same gunshots, and I hit the deck before she did. And when she did come down, she had already been shot," said John, 69, breaking into sobs as he recounted the shooting Saturday morning.

Lots of sobbing ahead for Chicago's people.

Hat tip: Peter von Buol