Cook County Board Toni Preckwinkle announced today the completion of the first significant phase of recommendations laid out in the comprehensive Bond Court study, furthering the County’s efforts to make sustainable and systemic changes to the criminal justice system by working to reduce the jail population and the related costs of public safety in Cook County.
The County has hired two new public defenders who will be working to identify low-risk detainees entering the criminal justice system. Public defenders will perform “motion to reconsider” court calls for new jail detainees unable to meet low bond amounts, and provide them another chance to have their circumstances reviewed to determine whether other options might be viable. The County also contracted four employees from the Safer Foundation for six-months to review the list of detainees already incarcerated and identify those whose detention status may also be eligible for review. The Office of the Public Defender remains committed to aggressively defending their clients to limit instances of unnecessary pre-trial detention.
“Lowering the jail population and reducing the exorbitant costs associated with detention have been one of my top priorities, and it will remain a focus until we see a significant and sustainable decrease in the population,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said. “The cost to taxpayers is too high, and the negative consequences for non-violent offenders who cannot afford bail are too great for us to grow complacent about this critical issue.”
In addition to new personnel commitments, the President is pursuing upgraded space for pre-trial services at the Department of Corrections campus. She appreciates Sheriff Tom Dart for identifying and vacating the new space where detainees will have better conditions and greater opportunity to provide information to their attorneys. Having a more complete picture of a detainees’ background is essential in determining an appropriate bond amount. That decision could mean the difference between incarceration or release for low-risk offenders, many of whom are women or older. Construction is expected to be complete in January 2013.
“President Preckwinkle continues to push forward on key criminal justice issues facing Cook County by persistently fighting to incarcerate only the appropriate violent offenders, lowering the population at the jail and the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center and using tax dollars efficiently,” said Paula Wolff, the senior executive at the business and civic organization Chicago Metropolis 2020. “Her work is essential to criminal justice reform and being both tough and smart on crime.”