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Cook County Jail Visitor Trapped For 31 Hours In Maximum Security Area

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A 2006 file photo showing the entrance of a maximum security detention area of the Cook County jail.
A 2006 file photo showing the entrance of a maximum security detention area of the Cook County jail.

A man visiting his son at a Chicago jail was trapped in a maximum security area for about 31 hours when a door closed behind him and locked, according to reports.

The man, who has not been identified, was told to walk down a hall and turn right when he visited the Cook County Jail on Saturday evening. He followed the directions, which led to a door that had been propped open, but it was the wrong room. This room was for visiting maximum security prisoners, and it was under renovation.

"He went into that room through two steel doors, both of which shut behind him and he was locked in," Cara Smith, executive director of the jail, told WLS in Chicago.

Since the room contained stools and partitions for visiting prisoners, the man began to wait for his son, who is facing drug charges.

"After about two hours he realized he was in the wrong room," Smith said.

That's when his ordeal really began.

The man banged on the doors, but no one could hear him.

“There’s about two feet of cement and two steel doors between him and the outside,” Smith told the Chicago Sun-Times.

And because the room was being renovated and not in use on the weekend, no one checked -- and no one seemed to notice that a visitor who had signed in had never signed out.

Eventually, the man spotted the room's sprinkler system.

“Brilliantly, he broke the sprinkler head off which alerted the fire department so they were able to identify where it was coming from and they went in and found him," Smith told the Chicago Tribune.

The man suffered cuts to his thumb and needed stitches, but otherwise was healthy after the ordeal that lasted from about 6 p.m. on Saturday until 1 a.m. on Monday, Smith said.

“We’re been looking at how and why and what went wrong," Smith told the Tribune. “Multiple things obviously failed including a contractor leaving a door open while they did work in our jail. It was a perfect storm of circumstances that led to this horrible incident."

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