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Sheriff wants $10 million for guards

Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Daily Southtown
by Jonathan Lipman

The Cook County sheriff is asking for 188 new jail guards and another 62 jail staff members for the county's 2006 budget, but Board President John Stroger said he's not sure he has the money.

Stroger said he respected a demand from U.S. District Judge George Marovich that the county hire more jail guards, but he "can't balance the budget in federal court."

Marovich oversees conditions at the jail under the settlement terms of a 1974 civil rights lawsuit filed by inmates. He has told Stroger the county must hire more guards each year until it has enough, though that final number is unknown.

Sheriff Michael Sheahan's office said it will need $10.1 million for the 250 new jail staff, but commissioners noted those costs do not include all employee benefits.

Sheahan wants another $10.6 million for new staff for the expanded domestic violence court opening this year, more courtroom deputies in response to judges' security concerns and new squad cars.

"The sheriff's office ... is asking me for an astronomical amount of money, and they know we're already $186 million short (for 2006)," Stroger said. "The judge isn't going to balance the budget."

Representatives from Sheahan's office said they're doing all they can to reduce crowding at the jail without hiring more staff.

More than 500 inmates at the jail now sleep on the floor each night because of overcrowding, said Sheahan's attorney, Dan Gallagher. The sheriff hopes to reduce that to zero within four years through furloughs and other release programs.

Commissioners criticized Sheahan's office for being slow to buy more ankle bracelets to expand the electronic monitoring program. Officials said the company supplying them was recently sold and the new owners have been slow to comply with county rules.



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