Farad Polk arrived at Chicago’s Cook County Jail in July 2014 as a free man. He was there to see his son, who had been sentenced to over a year behind bars on a drug conviction.
Following directions given by a jail employee, Polk “was processed in and told to go down the hall and stay to the right,” explained Cook County Jail executive director Cara Smith. “And he did that and encountered a visiting room for a whole other unit in our maximum security division.”
Upon entering, steel doors clanged behind Polk, locking him in.
That was at 5:45 on a Saturday evening. He wouldn’t be found and released for 32 hours.
“I’m sitting there waiting for five minutes and say, ‘This ain’t right,'” Polk said during a news conference about his ordeal, “so as I turned around to buzz out, there was nothing to buzz out. It’s just a room.”
“I think it is a tragedy,” he continued. “I did as I was told, so I don’t know how it could happen.”
After spending the better part of two days locked in the eight by eight foot room without food, water, or a restroom, Polk finally decided to break a fire sprinkler, prompting emergency crews to arrive and rescue him.
“It was the last option after all the options had failed, that was the last option for me,” he told ABC7 in 2014.
After his release from the room, Polk was reportedly handcuffed, while jail employees worked to determine whether he was an inmate, or visitor. He was later hospitalized for an injury to his hand sustained while breaking the fire sprinkler.
Now, two and a half years after his accidental imprisonment, Polk has been awarded more $600,000 dollars in a settlement, after suing the Cook County for emotional trauma. Cook County Sheriff’s Office press secretary Sophia Ansari confirmed the settlement to NBC Chicago.
“As we said at the time of this very unfortunate incident, we are so very grateful Mr. Polk was found safely,” Ansari told the station. “We are pleased that this matter has been resolved.”
Over the phone, Polk’s attorney, Cannon Lambert Sr., told me that, while the circumstances that lead to the settlement were obviously upsetting, “to the extent that we are able to help [Polk] find vindication, we’re very happy about that.”
While Lambert said that Cook County did, in fact, implement a number of procedural changes in the wake of this accidental imprisonment, he explained to me that part of Polk’s frustration came from the blame some officers involved in the case placed on him after the incident.
“The fact that we were able to resolve the case for just shy of three-quarters of a million dollars is something that, I think, helps him to feel a little bit better about that,” Lambert explained. “You just hope that these are things that shouldn’t happen, and that they don’t happen in the future.”
This story has been updated to include comments from attorney Cannon Lambert Sr.