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County jail ankle bracelet expansion tripped up

Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Chicago Sun-Times
by STEVE PATTERSON Staff Reporter

Plans to expand the Cook County sheriff's electronic monitoring program are on hold, as the company holding the contract "refused" to comply with county rules to include minorities and women among its subcontractors.

The plan to increase the electronic monitor program comes as part of a broader, court-mandated order to reduce the staff-to-inmate ratio at the Cook County Jail.

With 250 monitors now in use, the County Board in March approved a $1 million contract with ADT Corp. to buy 250 more.

But since then, ADT was purchased by London-based G4S -- which commissioners were told Monday won't comply with county subcontracting requirements.

The sheriff's chief financial officer, Jack Kelly, told the board "we were hoping they would come around," but G4S "refused, as of last week, to be in compliance."

Because the county's existing 250 electronic monitors are on a unique frequency, they were told, it could cost up to $5 million to start over with a new company.

But Board President John Stroger said he'll spend "a few dollars" to make sure the county's requirements are met, rather than take the sheriff's suggestion of waiving that mandate.

"We want our laws to be respected," Stroger said, even if it costs millions more to do it.

"Apparently, we don't have budgetary problems if we can just blow $5 million," Commissioner Carl Hansen argued.

Commissioner Tony Peraica called it "foolhardy" and "just silly" to spend $5 million instead of $1 million simply to meet subcontracting requirements, causing Stroger to relate the matter to slavery.

"This has nothing to do with it," Peraica shot back.

G4S has no U.S. offices, and an e-mail to the company's London media office was not returned, but Commissioner Larry Suffredin suggested the county "put some pressure on them" to comply.

The debate arose during a meeting mandated by U.S. District Judge George Marovich, who presides over a consent decree, where the county agreed to provide certain conditions at the county

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