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Top four criminal justice leaders agree change is in the cards

Thursday, May 07, 2015
Chicago Sun-Times
by Tina Sfondeles


Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle speaking to the City Club of Chicago. | Brian Jackson/For the Sun Times

Cook County’s top four criminal justice leaders agreed Wednesday that big changes should be made to the criminal justice system to stop violent crimes and to also reduce recidivism by providing mental health and support services.

As Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle criticized the jail’s population of low-level offenders, citing an inmate who had stolen six bars of soap, Chief Judge Timothy Evans pointed out those offenders don’t always have a nonviolent criminal history. He has the job of protecting the public from those people, he told a packed crowd at the City Club luncheon.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart largely criticized Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed cuts to mental health services, which Dart said will be disastrous for the jail. He’s long called it the largest provider of mental health care in the state.

“The thing that I keep circling back to is, do we have the right people in the jail and do we have them there for the proper amount of time? And I can tell you categorically the answer I feel strong about is no, absolutely not,” Dart said. “I look at it as we’ve become the dumping ground for a dysfunctional system where the players that I’m talking about frankly are not in this room.”

Dart said the system isn’t working because “the system doesn’t view people as individuals.”

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