Suffredin- For a Better Cook County  

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:  

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


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

  Eighteen of the 20 largest banks in the world and more than 50 foreign banks have offices in Cook County.

Editorial: Jail crowding is costly, needs to be fixed

Monday, June 17, 2013
Chicago Sun-Times
by Editorial Board

Cook County’s bail system is broken.

People charged with nonviolent crimes, but who don’t have money to make bail, spend weeks or months awaiting trial. Costs to the taxpayers are soaring, and they could go far higher if a federal court orders the county to build a new facility to ease overcrowding.

It doesn’t have to be this way. But the responsibility for this mess is shared by various public officials who have their own power bases, and up until now they haven’t come together to provide a fix.

At Wednesday’s Cook County Board meeting, Commissioner John Fritchey plans to introduce a resolution urging Chief Cook County Judge Timothy Evans and other stakeholders to revamp the bail system to lower jail admissions by 25 percent a year from now. That’s a reasonable goal.

Right now, 90 percent of the inmates at the county jail are awaiting trial. Of that 90 percent, 70 percent are charged with nonviolent offenses. Those awaiting trial sit in custody for an average of 57 days at a cost of $1,000 a week per inmate.

Under this system, someone charged with a serious, violent offense can leave the jail if he or she has the cash to make bail. Meanwhile, someone accused of a far lesser offense, but who doesn’t have ready cash, stays behind bars. What kind of sense does that make? Personal finances should not dictate bail policy.

Other metropolitan areas do better, Fritchey says. For example, he says, New York releases 70 percent of its suspects on recognizance bonds and Washington, D.C., releases more than 80 percent — 10 times the percentage in Cook County. Nationally, only 60 percent of inmates in local jails are awaiting trial, compared with 90 percent in Cook County, he says.

After taking office, Board President Toni Preckwinkle promptly made a priority of reducing the jail population, not only to save costs but also to avoid the crushing experience of languishing in jail for someone who turns out to be innocent. But last year, the jail’s average daily population was up about 6 percent over 2011 and at its highest since 2007. The jail now is close to capacity, and may exceed it by summer.

To see why this is a tough case to crack, one only need look at what happened after a federal consent decree gave Sheriff Tom Dart the power to hire two retired judges to assess prisoners and free up to 1,500 of them on electronic monitors. Dart says he’s put as many inmates on electronic monitoring as he can under the rules. In an April debate on WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight,” Judge Evans retorted that almost half of the time judges recommend electronic monitoring, Dart doesn’t do it. Dart said Evans is misrepresenting the numbers. Preckwinkle pointed her finger at the judges, saying that since last November, the number of times judges have ordered electronic monitoring has mysteriously plummeted. Evans said the responsibility for jail crowding lies with lawmakers and the sheriff, not the judges.

This doesn’t sound like a group of officials ready to pull together for a solution.

It probably doesn’t help that Evans and Preckwinkle are longtime political rivals, going back to the 1980s and ’90s, when Preckwinkle repeatedly challenged Evans for his Fourth Ward seat on the City Council before finally beating him in 1991. And that Preckwinkle has had public disagreements over Dart’s and Evans’ budgets.

Judges have wide discretion whether to set cash or recognizance bonds. But deciding when to release prisoners is tricky. No one wants to be the next official to free a Willie Horton. That’s why we need cooperation among all the officials in the criminal justice system to get a bail policy that works.

Recent Headlines

Nearly a century after a brutal murder, Chicago’s only lynching victim gets memorial
Thursday, March 21, 2019
The Grio

County harassment survey shows mixed faith in reporting system
Thursday, March 21, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Recovery Behind Bars: Cook County Jail’s Opioid Treatment Program
Wednesday, March 20, 2019
Medill Reports

Judge: Labor unions don't owe non-union state workers refunds, despite unconstitutional fees
Wednesday, March 20, 2019
Cook County record

The language of justice: Court interpreters fight for client rights and their rights in Cook County
Tuesday, March 19, 2019
Medill Reports

Cook County General Hospital's $90-Million Redevelopment Saves a Chicago Icon
Tuesday, March 19, 2019
Engineering News Rec ord

Preckwinkle sends out harassment survey to staff after harassment controversy in her office
Tuesday, March 19, 2019
Chicago Tribune

Illinois Land Title Association Granted Summary Judgment in Case against Cook County Recorder of Deeds
Sunday, March 17, 2019
Illinois State Bar Association

Grand Jury Indicts Debt Collector of Bribing Cook County Clerk Dorothy Brown
Friday, March 15, 2019
WBBM Chicago

Indictment: Cook County's hired debt collector charged with bribing county officials to secure county contract
Friday, March 15, 2019
Cook County record

Karen Chavers Honored as 2019 Unsung Heroine
Thursday, March 14, 2019
Special to

Pappas to announce deadline for Cook County property owners to pay late taxes
Wednesday, March 13, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Courts Cause Confusion For Woman Trying To Resolve Her Case
Wednesday, March 13, 2019
CBS Chicago

Census changes raise fears of Illinois undercounting
Monday, March 11, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Cook County Sheriff Warns of Apple Phone Scam
Monday, March 11, 2019

Caller poses as Apple to get victims personal info in scam targeting Cook County residents
Monday, March 11, 2019
WGN Chicago

Should Young Adults Be Sent To Juvenile Courts?
Sunday, March 10, 2019
NPR Radio

Cook County Jail hires 2nd consecutive mental health professional as warden
Wednesday, March 06, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Lawsuit: Sheriff jailed dozens because of faulty electronic monitoring devices
Monday, March 04, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Woman dies while in custody at Cook County Jail
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Fox 32

all news items

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