Suffredin- An Advocate for All of Us  
 

Accountability
Forest Preserves
Public Safety
Cook County Budget
Forest Pres. Budget
Property Tax Appeal
Health & Hospitals
Land Bank Authority
Policy Resolutions
Unsung Heroine

 

   
 
   
   
 
   
     
  Office phone numbers:  
   
 
 

Search current and proposed Cook County Legislation in Larry's exclusive legislative library.

   
 

The Cook County Code of Ordinances are the current laws of Cook County.

   
  The first blood bank in the world was established at Cook County Hospital by Dr. Bernard Fantus in 1937.
   
     
     
     



Jail program for women offenders faces the budget ax

Friday, January 19, 2007
Defender
by Charles O’Toole

Jacalyn Brown looks nothing like the photo on her Cook County Jail ID, and that's good.
The bruised, sullen woman in the picture, arrested for theft in 2005, stares into the camera with undisguised hostility. Today the 43-year-old mother of two flashes a smile brighter than her gold earrings.
"I was in and out of jail, the penitentary, I was beat up," she said Thursday. "People used to hide when they'd see me. Now I get phone calls to go out and do service work for others."
Brown is one of 283 active members of the Women of Power Alumni Association, an independent non-profit organization of female ex-offenders who are setting their lives straight. They all carry their jail IDs as reminders of how far they have come.
The women credit their transformation to the compassion and support offered through the Cook County Sheriff's Department of Women's Justice Services. The department, founded in 1999, provides services ranging from addiction treatment and pre-natal care, to a furlough program that lets women spend nights with their families and receive counseling during the day.
But now the future of those programs is in jeopardy. In his proposed budget released this week, Cook County Board President Todd Stroger recommended eliminating the department and its $4.1 million in annual appropriations. The cut is part of Stroger's effort to rein in a $500 million county budget deficit without raising taxes.
Sheriff's spokeswoman Sally Daly said the sheriff intends to "make a case [to Stroger] that this program is very important." However, the department's Web site now includes an announcement that "all programs offered" by DWJS "will cease to exist as of March 1, 2007."
Stroger's spokesman Steve Mayberry said that the department, though "laudable," had been identified by the budget committee as one with personnel who could be better used at the jail.
"We all share one common goal," he added, "and that is to protect the taxpayers in this county from higher taxes."
The news has dismayed advocates for women prisoners, who point out that the number of women incarcerated at Cook County Jail has skyrocketed from 8,557 in 1991 to 13,551 last year.
Debbie Ryan, a spokeswoman for the department, said DWJS served nearly 2,200 women in 2006.
"There's a number of initiatives [the department has] been crucial at developing," said Patricia O'Brien, an associate professor at University of Illinois-Chicago who studies female offenders. "They've been good at sensitizing the sheriff's department and correction officers about the unique issues faced by women detainees."
Women of Power members echoed O'Brien, describing a department with a radically different philosophy about corrections.
"In Division 3 and Division 4 [where women are housed at the jail], you get officers who think everyone over there is the scum of the earth," said Marnice Gaston, 30. "They got officers here [at DWJS] who will go and check in on your kids. These officers -- this is a new breed."
The department's initiatives may also have contributed to slower growth in the female prisoner population at Cook County. Since the department's inception, the number of women in the jail has held relatively steady near 15,000 and actually dropped almost 10 percent since 2004. Though O'Brien cautioned that no clear connection has been found between the two events, she added, "I don't think it's so coincidental that there has been some flattening of those numbers."
Lisa Cunningham, Women of Power's president, faced five to 10 years in prison when she was arrested in 2004 for theft. Her photo, too, is a portrait of desperation, light years from the well-dressed, elegant woman she has become.
She was addicted to drugs -- "all of them," she said -- and feared she would lose her three children to social services. Instead she was offered a spot in the department's Female Furlough Program. It enabled her to take care of her family while getting daily supervision.
"I was on Female Furlough for seven months, and they were watching me the whole time," she said. That kind of support gave her the encouragement and discipline to turn her life around, she said.
Cunningham says the women selected for DWJS programming need to meet certain criteria: They have to be non-violent offenders issued an "I-bond" by their sentencing judge, which allows them to be released on their own recognizance while they await a court date. They are then chosen by department staffbased on their willingness to work toward self-improvement.
"We do change through this process," Cunningham said. "We learn to become self-sufficient."
Other members said the examples set by Cunningham and the group's vice president Marian Hatcher, also a recovering addict, have inspired them in their own efforts to stay clean and rejoin society.
But the threat to the department that has nurtured them has the women furious. Cunningham vowed to fight "tooth and nail" to keep the department intact.
Joanne Gillespie, 41, voiced the group's frustration.
"I'm seeing women becoming great moms here--I'm watching it in the furlough program," she said. "We're in corrections, and we're correcting ourselves. And you're going to take that away?"
"That's a crime."
Charles O'Toole is a reporter for the Medill News Service.


Recent Headlines

Some Not-So-Bad Census News: Cook County Sees Economic Growth
Thursday, May 26, 2016
Chicago Magazine

Forest Preserves of Cook County Launches Pilot Program for Youth Employment
Thursday, May 26, 2016
Special to suffredin.org

Future of health care a budgetary concern for county board president
Thursday, May 26, 2016
Hyde park Herald

Outdoor Recreation is Close to Home
Thursday, May 26, 2016
Special to suffredin.org

Cook County Home Rule Tax Ordinance reform aimed at simplifying certain tax payments
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Cook County Record

Cook Co. jail employee harassment protocol is ‘broken’: appeals panel
Monday, May 23, 2016
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin

Opinion: At the jail, doing something about a ‘national disgrace’
Sunday, May 22, 2016
Chicago Sun-Times

Jesus 'Chuy' Garcia: We want socially responsible businesses. Here's how to grow them.
Friday, May 20, 2016
Crain's Chicago Business

Former Illinois Supreme Court Justice Fitzgerald remembered for warmth, wisdom
Friday, May 20, 2016
Madison St. Claire Record

Horizon Farms reopens to public amid legal tug-of-war
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Daily Herald

Psychologist Reflects On Her First Year Running The Cook County Jail
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
WBEZ Chicago Public radio

Human remains exhumed in 2009 Burr Oak Cemetery scandal receive proper burial
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Chicago Tribune

Cook County offers contractors incentives to hire teens
Monday, May 16, 2016
Chicago Tribune

Cook County Court to Try New Approach to Justice
Monday, May 16, 2016
WTTW Chicago Tonight

Cook County Board—scene of a legislative melee
Friday, May 13, 2016
Crain's Chicago Business

20 GRADUATE FROM COOK CO. DRUG COURT REHAB
Friday, May 13, 2016
ABC Eyewitness News Channel 7

Chicago’s True Nature: The Forest Preserves of Cook County
Friday, May 13, 2016
Special to suffredin.org

COOK COUNTY CLERK TO REMAIN AN ELECTED POSITION
Friday, May 13, 2016
WLS TV ABC 7

Silver Star Banner
Friday, May 13, 2016
Special to suffredin.org

Cook County Updating Home Rule Tax Code to Improve Service, Increase Efficiency
Friday, May 13, 2016
Lawndale News

all news items

Paid for by Larry Suffredin and not at taxpayer expense. A Haymarket Production.
^ TOP