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Number of county criminal suspects on electronic monitoring surges

Thursday, October 06, 2011
Chicago Sun-Times

Cook County judges are ordering more suspects charged in non-violent crimes to await trial at home on electronic monitoring, rather than behind bars, according to new statistics released Wednesday.

In the last year alone, the number of suspects on electronic monitoring has more than doubled, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s office announced.

In 2010, a daily average of 395 suspects arrested in Cook County were on home electronic monitoring, but that number jumped to a daily average of 533 during the third quarter of the county’s fiscal year, ending Aug. 31. It climbed even more in September with the average hovering around 720 with 829 on home electronic monitoring on Sept. 27th alone, the most recent statistic available.

The numbers, compiled by Preckwinkle and Sheriff Tom Dart’s offices, are expected to go higher as Preckwinkle works with judges and others to shave costs by lowering the jail population.

After a judge orders a suspect to be put on electronic monitoring — typically in lieu of bond or as part of bond — the sheriff’s office outfits the suspect with an ankle monitoring device. A sheriff’s investigator then accompanies the suspect to the suspect’s home where a companion tracking device is installed in the phone, according to sheriff’s spokesman Steve Patterson.

If the suspect strays from home or the designated boundaries, it triggers an alarm, alerting a special sheriff’s investigator charged with keeping tabs of the defendants.

The daily cost for a detainee on home electronic monitoring is $64.74, while the average daily cost for someone to stay in the jail is $142.60, according to an analysis conducted by the president’s office.

The jail on Wednesday had 9,100 inmates with a capacity of 9,300.

Preckwinkle is setting aside $1 million next year for the sheriff’s round-the-clock home monitoring program.

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