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.

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

Cook County Jail Inmate Study for 2nd Chance

Sunday, January 03, 2016
Chicago Tribune
by Robert McCoppin



Cook County Jail inmates study for 2nd chance

  • Chicago Tribune
  • By Robert McCoppin Twitter @RobertMcCoppin

On a recent gloomy, windy morning, 10 inmates gathered in a windowless, cinder-block basement room in the Cook County Jail.

As the teacher demonstrated how to solve algebraic equations involving multiple steps, inmates in tan jumpsuits sat quietly and attentively, speaking up only to offer answers.

“A negative times a negative is always?” the teacher asks. “A positive,” comes the group response.

The inmates were participating in the Safer Foundation’s PACE Institute, a program offered at the jail that provides a high school degree. Students typically start by developing reading and writing skills, while also studying math, science, history and social studies.

Their ultimate goals are to get out of jail, get a job, and in some cases support their families, said Durant Freeman, director of the program. Many just want to function in the world and have the things “average” people have, he said.

When some come in angry, often because they don’t have the money to post bond, teachers try to emphasize this is a way to make use of their time.

The PACE Institute receives financial support from Chicago Tribune Charities, a McCormick Foundation fund. There is a waiting list to enter.

For inmate Akeem Alexander, 29, of Chicago, the classes make up for opportunities lost when he dropped out of Lincoln Park High School. He hopes to eventually go to college and get a real estate license.

“I think it’s a great program,” he said. “I like that the teachers are patient. It’s complicated, but she’s hands on, teaching us to take our time, showing us different ways, different angles.”

Alexander, who was held on no bond for domestic battery last year, has been taking classes since June. He said he did well on preparatory placement tests, with plans to take the high school equivalency exam in a month.

The Safer Foundation, one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit providers of services for people with criminal records, also runs two residential centers in Chicago. It focuses on jobs as the best way to help clients start over and lead productive lives. The percentage of repeat offenders in Safer Foundation programs is about half the statewide average. Only 17 percent of those who find employment return to prison, according to a study by Loyola University Chicago.

The Safer Foundation teaches not only book skills, but life skills like conflict resolution and managing personal finances. Freeman started as a teacher and prided himself on raising each student’s aptitude more than two grade levels, and getting them to pass the high school exam.

A former correctional officer, he joined the program after seeing people in his neighborhood coming through the jail.

Beyond traditional school lessons, part of the challenge is teaching computer literacy to adults who might never have used computers or seen a drop-down menu. With only about 25 laptops for some 250 inmates in the program, some use paper demonstration sheets to learn keyboarding techniques.

Ebony Mason is one of 10 teachers in the program. She has a master’s degree in education and started teaching at the jail this fall after teaching third grade at Chicago Public Schools.

The inmates are more eager to learn than the kids were, which keeps the classroom calm, Mason said. “The guys here, they really, really want it,” she said.

When inmates question the relevance of abstract inventions like negative numbers, she tells them they may encounter such concepts in the real world, for example, when they balance a bank account.

One of the most rewarding parts of teaching the inmates is when they recognize how much they’ve grown, Mason said. Some come in unable to fill out a simple application but leave knowing how to apply for a job or for college. Others learn how to read their own court documents.

“When students recognize their growth, that’s a big accomplishment,” she said. “They feel empowered.”

Recent Headlines

Beekeeping Behind Bars: Inmates Raise Bees at Cook County Jail
Friday, June 14, 2019

Court rules county retirees entitled to health care no matter who last employer was
Thursday, June 13, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Prevent Illinois from being the next ground zero for measles
Thursday, June 13, 2019
Crain's Chicago Business

At Cook County Jail, Inmates Relax Their Minds, Bodies With Yoga
Thursday, June 06, 2019
Prison Mindfulness Institute

Illinois Dept. of Revenue Releases Final 2018 Cook County Equalization Factor
Thursday, June 06, 2019
JD Supra

Skokie drops recent proposal to opt out of Cook County minimum wage ordinance
Wednesday, June 05, 2019
Chicago Tribune

JAMA examines rising drug costs • CVS' ambitious transformation • Cook County extends Medicaid contract
Wednesday, June 05, 2019
Crain's Chicago Business

DCFS says nonprofit misused taxpayer dollars, demands repayment of $100K
Wednesday, June 05, 2019
Chicago Tribune

Cook County judge, ripped for ‘insensitive’ racial comments, dumped from bench
Wednesday, June 05, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Cook County Offers Low Cost Rabies And Microchipping Clinic
Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Masturbating Cook County Jail inmates could cost taxpayers $2 million-plus in legal fees
Tuesday, June 04, 2019

New training and protocols needed at Cook County, task force says after sexual harassment scandal
Friday, May 31, 2019
Chicago Tribune

Cook County assessor's tax reform bill skids in Springfield
Friday, May 31, 2019
Crain's Chicago Business

Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi's property tax reforms stall out in Springfield
Friday, May 31, 2019
Chicago Tribune

The North Shore Mosquito Abatement District has found the first mosquitoes to test positive for West Nile virus in the District this year.
Wednesday, May 29, 2019
Special to

Cook County to Address Perinatal Health Disparities with $4.8M Grant
Friday, May 24, 2019

Audit Recommends Ways To Overhaul Cook County Property Tax System
Thursday, May 23, 2019

Cock-a-doodle-deferred? After ‘urban farmers’ cry foul, county tables rooster ban
Thursday, May 23, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

From green screen computers to staff shortages, a new audit says Cook County's property tax system needs more resources
Thursday, May 23, 2019
Chicago Tribune

Measles Exposure Reported in Chicago
Monday, May 20, 2019

all news items

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