Almost a year after Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart initiated discussions about utilizing Cook County Jail inmates to clean animal cages at a city shelter, that program is set to begin on Monday morning.
There are 16 minimum-security inmates who will clean cages at the center, helping to save Chicago taxpayers from overtime costs that have been incurred by shortages in staff and volunteers. Inmates will be paid $4 a day – a little less than $1 an hour, though double the standard rate inmate workers usually receive on jobs at the jail. All of those selected for the program are serving short jail sentences for non-violent charges, most for traffic-related offenses. Inmates can use the money they make to purchase items through the jail commissary, including snacks and toiletry items.
The inmates are searched before they are escorted on a bus to be taken to the nearby animal center and they are supervised by correctional officers the entire time. They are again searched before returning to their jail cells. All will be wearing orange jump suits and will carry out their duties during hours when the facility is not open to the public.
Though Sheriff Dart and Commissioner Travis first discussed starting the program last year, the plan was delayed by changes in city leadership. This summer, both the Cook County Board of Commissioners and Chicago City Council gave stamps of approval to begin.
The city will pay the sheriff’s office $231,059 a year to fund all inmate, officer and transportation costs associated with the program.