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Portions of Cook County Jail being closed
Sheriff Tom Dart says they're not needed for now, cites savings

Thursday, March 04, 2010
Chicago Sun-Times
by Rummana Hussain

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart announced this morning he has closed a 600-bed dorm at Cook County Jail and is planning to close another 300-bed facility in the next few weeks in a measure that could potentially save taxpayers $15 million a year.

Dart cited the shrinking inmate population within the last few years and various “management methods” for the closures, but said he has no “delusions” that the trend might change.

That’s why he said he will keep the 300-bed Division III facility “mothballed” to be used for overflow spikes at the jail.

The 600-bed facility slated for closure in Division II once housed a kitchen in the 1950s. It will be converted into a cafeteria, Dart said.

In 2002, the average daily capacity at the jail exceeded 11,000 and many detainees were forced to sleep on the floor or rotate bunk time. Currently, there are 8,600 inmates.

The closures will allow the shifting of 175 corrections employees to other posts — a move Dart says will save $10.5 million in annual salaries and potentially $2 million more a year in overtime costs.

Dart hopes the reallocation of the jobs will alleviate some of the roughly 500 federal mandated hires the county has agreed to.

As part of decades long court battle over conditions at the jail, U.S.

District Judge Virginia Kendall recently ordered Dart to hire 210 new sheriff¹s officers in 2010. There are also 295 vacant positions that need to be filled.

So far, there have been 100 new hires and 96 positions have been converted into officer positions, sheriff's spokesman Steve Patterson said.

Patterson said county officials hope Kendall will consider the 175 re-allocated positions as new jobs.

"I'm not going to pressure the judge," Dart said. ". . .But I feel confident that things such as this have to impact those type of numbers."



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