Suffredin- Changing County Government  
 

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

 

   
 
   
   
 
   
     
  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.

   
  Cook County is the second most populous county in the nation. It is the 19th largest government in the U.S.
   
     
     
     



County sends inmates packing to cut costs

Monday, August 24, 2009
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin
by Pat Milhizer

As September begins, Scott Kurtovich will have to figure out how to ease the crowded conditions at a Cook County Jail that's nearly full.

"Come Labor Day, we're going to be at that 98, 99 percent capacity," said Kurtovich, the first assistant executive director in the sheriff's department.

At least he has options with two downstate jails that welcome Cook County inmates.

Under a program that's in its second year, the sheriff's department sends some inmates to jails in Kankakee and Jefferson counties.

One day last week, 39 inmates were in Jefferson County in southern Illinois and another five were in Kankakee County. Compared to the roughly 9,700 inmates that were in the Cook County Jail last week, that may not seem like a lot of inmates.

But the maneuver helps the sheriff's department avoid having to deal with physical and legal fights.

Physical, because when inmates have to sleep on floors, fights can break out if one inmate steps on another. And legal because, when an inmate doesn't have a bed, the sheriff's department technically is violating a federal consent decree.

"Prior to having Kankakee and Jefferson as options, we violated that quite frequently," Kurtovich said.

In addition to promoting a safer jail, sending inmates downstate presents cheaper lock-up costs than what the department spends at the facility on California Avenue.

The county spends an average of about $125 per day to house an inmate in its facility, compared to the $50 charged by Jefferson County and the $60 paid to Kankakee County.

And there are more savings, though they can't actually be measured, in the reduced liability from having a less crowded jail, Kurtovich said.

Since every inmate represents a potential liability for hurting someone else or getting injured himself, a more crowded jail can present the possibility of having more personal-injury lawsuits filed by inmates. And if a correctional officer gets hurt trying to break up a brawl, then there's another workers' compensation claim for the county to address.

To prepare for the Labor Day weekend, Kurtovich will send inmates downstate who represent a medium-security risk and who don't have a court date for at least 30 days, he said. Inmates who represent a high risk for behavioral problems gang members and anyone else who may be too aggressive with others also could be sent to the rural counties.

But low-risk inmates never experience this program. Cook County Jail supervisors prefer keeping them around to handle tasks such as serving meals, cutting grass, mopping floors and shoveling snow.

In the past, the debate over how to address crowded jail conditions reached circuit court.

A year ago at this time, Sheriff Thomas J. Dart accused bond court judges of "either intentionally or unintentionally" undermining his efforts to reduce crowding by issuing only one recognizance bond to the roughly 1,500 defendants they saw in a week.

This came at a time when Dart was at odds with Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans over who was responsible for placing defendants on house arrest through electronic monitoring. Dart said judges were in the best position to make the call, and Evans maintained that a federal consent decree leaves that decision to the sheriff.

A compromise was reached last winter when Evans established a pretrial services department in Central Bond Court that makes recommendations to judges on electronic monitoring candidates who are awaiting trial.

Last week, the county had 256 defendants on electronic monitoring.

Kurtovich, who has been with the sheriff's department for 24 years, remembers when that figure was closer to 1,600 defendants. If that many inmates were subjected to house arrest today, Kurtovich said, he wouldn't have to send inmates to other counties.

At a cost of about $50 per inmate each day, electronic monitoring costs roughly the same as sending inmates downstate. And it's less expensive than housing inmates in Cook County Jail.

That's a strong argument to consider expanding the use of house arrest, said county Commissioner Earlean Collins, who chairs the County Board's Criminal Justice Committee.

"I'm constantly pushing it and pushing it because we are under a federal court decree," Collins said.

"It makes a lot more sense because it's the jail population that we have to adhere to, and you can also almost automatically expect an increase in arrests in the summertime because you have all these teenagers and college students out on the street," Collins said. "And compounding the situation is the job market. There aren't as many jobs anymore. So you're going to have more incidents, and they still have to go to jail."

And when they get there, the inmates will find out whether they're one of those headed to a rural county.

"What we're doing is actually saving the taxpayers' money because we're running a safer and securer jail," Kurtovich said about the department's use of the downstate program. "But if we were at 80 percent [jail] capacity, we would not need this."

pmilhizer@lbpc.com


Recent Headlines

Records falsified in Metra work logs
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Chicago Tribune

Cook County approves road projects for upcoming years
Sunday, July 27, 2014
Northwest Indiana Times

Palatine, County Forest Preserve To Partner Up
Saturday, July 26, 2014
Palatine Journal Online

Man dies following beating at Cook County Jail
Saturday, July 26, 2014
Chicago Tribune

Cook County Health Board selects new leaders
Friday, July 25, 2014
Crain's Chicago Business

The PrivateBank pledges $10 million to the Cook County Land Bank
Friday, July 25, 2014
Chicago Tribune

Cook County Commissioners switch votes, rehire erstwhile contractor
Friday, July 25, 2014
Chicago Sun-Times

Cook County Board adds two questions to packed fall ballot
Thursday, July 24, 2014
Chicago Tribune

Cook County to cut buildings' carbon emissions
Thursday, July 24, 2014
Fox 32 Chicago

Cook County Board sends assault weapons referendum to the ballot
Thursday, July 24, 2014
Chicago Sun-Times

Cook County mulls fund-of-funds investment, other changes
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Pensions & Investments

Forest Preserves of Cook County to get expertise, guidance from new Policy Council
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Special to suffredin.org

Preserves and parks offering memorial trees and benches for a price
Monday, July 21, 2014
Chicago Tribune

Community leaders, sheriff aim to help mentally ill inmates
Monday, July 21, 2014
FOX 32 Chicago

TIF Revenue Down 2 Percent in Suburban Cook Co.
Thursday, July 17, 2014
Palatine Patch

Recorder of Deeds staffers accused of political motive in firing
Thursday, July 17, 2014
Chicago Sun-Times

Cook County sheriff's department will focus on catching people wanted on arrest warrants
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Chicago Sun-Times

An unwelcome surprise from the Cook County health system
Monday, July 14, 2014
Chicago Tribune

New Cook County Health CEO must find millions in savings - stat
Monday, July 14, 2014
Crain's Chicago Business

Fitch cuts rating on Cook County
Saturday, July 12, 2014
Reuters

all news items

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