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Cook County Jail exits federal oversight of more than 40 years

Monday, June 12, 2017
Chicago Tribune
by Steve Schmadeke

For the first time in more than 40 years, the Cook County Jail is no longer operating under federal oversight after a judge last week found the massive Southwest Side complex had at last met the terms of a 2010 consent decree, the sheriff's office said.

Most recently, the Department of Justice in 2007 investigated allegations of abuse and unconstitutional confinement, issuing a report a year later that found glaring deficiencies across the board, including in medical care, detainee safety and excessive force. A 60-page order agreed to by the county, sheriff's office, DOJ and federal court laid out a road map of required fixes.

The sheriff's office, which operates the jail, said it has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into improvements, including increasing the number of correctional officers by 25 percent, installing some 2,400 cameras, bolstering officer training and building a 979-bed, $86 million processing center that includes facilities for medical and mental health treatment.

"Upon becoming sheriff in 2007, it was evident that drastic reforms were needed at the jail," Sheriff Tom Dart said in a statement. "Prior to the DOJ report, I began a systematic overhaul of the jail, working with the federal court and others to address the many issues identified. Today, we have systems and structures that are looked at as a beacon for correctional facilities around the country."

On Friday, Judge Virginia Kendall ruled that the jail, which has been operating under federal oversight since 1974, was in compliance with the 2010 order, the sheriff's office said.

Twitter @SteveSchmadeke

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