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A YEAR IN REVIEW: UNJUST INCARCERATION
BY THE NUMBERS

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016Last month, Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart called for an end to a dangerous and unjust cash bail system in Illinois. Sheriff Dart pointed to a system that allows those who pose a danger to the community, such as gun offenders, to go free because they have access to cash, while at the same time jailing the poor by putting a price on freedom that they cannot afford.

In a parallel effort to further illuminate the problem, the Sheriff’s office launched the Hardship Project. The Project tracks the daily tally of non-violent, low-level offenders in custody in the Cook County Jail who are being held because they cannot pay bond amounts of $1,000 or less. Since the Project launched last month, an average of 187 people a day are in the jail because they are too poor to buy their pre-trial freedom.

The Sheriff’s office also listed contact information on its website for the public to contact should they want to help bond out an inmate. Since the project began, 108 people have been bonded out by generous citizens.

In further efforts to reform a criminal justice system that perpetuates unjust incarceration, last year Sheriff Dart passed “Rocket Docket” legislation. The law ensures that non-violent defendants charged with low-level crimes of survival such as retail theft or criminal trespassing will have their cases disposed of within 30 days of assignment to a courtroom or be released from the jail pending their trial. Since the law was passed, 100 individuals have been referred through the program with a 96 percent success rate in either expedited adjudication or pre-trial release.

Due to the success of the pilot program, Sheriff Dart has passed an amendment which expands the law to include minor traffic offenses and petty drug possession. This measure takes effect Jan. 1, 2017.

These initiatives and others have effectively ended overcrowding at the Cook County Jail. Today’s jail population is 7,533. Another 2,181 individuals are on electronic monitoring. At this time last year, there were more than 8,200 people behind bars and more than 2,300 people on electronic monitoring.

Though, as reflected in the numbers below, there is still much work to be done to fix this broken system.

In addition to incarceration, each admission to Cook County Jail triggers an assembly line of daily accommodations – food, sanitary supplies, laundry, transportation, etc. This has critical ramifications for the Cook County taxpayers who subsidize the costs of running Cook County Jail as well as the 4,000 jail employees who work every day to keep this 24/7 operation running smoothly.

In 2016:

 

 

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