Cook County Sheriff Says: “Take Your Prisoners”

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Dart appeals to Illinois Supreme Court to force IDOC to accept detainees

COOK COUNTY, Illinois – More than 550 inmates are currently in the Cook County Jail, which they shouldn’t be. Many should be in state prison, but are not because the Illinois Department of Corrections has refused to accept many new inmates due to Covid issues. Now Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart is appealing to the Illinois Supreme Court asking justices to force IDOC to accept detainees.

“For more than a year and a half, the Illinois Department of Corrections shirked its responsibility to deal with those convicted and remanded in custody by the Circuit Court and instead forced the Department of Corrections to Cook County to detain these people indefinitely, ”Dart said in a written statement.

In April, WGN Investigates reported on similar concerns raised by other suburban sheriffs, including the costs and impact on inmate rehabilitation. In April, Kane County Sheriff Ron Hain estimated that 46 of the 389 inmates in his jail should have been state-held, costing his office more than $ 500,000. Kankakee County Sheriff Mike Downey said local taxpayers were forced to pay the $ 650,000 to feed, house and secure inmates who should be in state jail. At the time, several sheriffs said they sent invoices to the state to cover the costs but had not yet been reimbursed.

Some county inmates have waited so long to be transferred to a state prison that they are likely eligible for release. In Cook County, the sheriff said 280 of the 550 inmates awaiting transfer had served enough time to be eligible for release. However, as IDOC refuses to process them, their eligibility for parole is also suspended.

Cook County is also reporting more problems as inmates languish awaiting transfer. The sheriff says 40% of fights and other security breaches in his prison involve inmates who should be held by the state.

“The state’s refusal to do its job only makes ours more difficult and dangerous,” Dart said.

An IDOC spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sheriff Dart’s petition to the state Supreme Court. In April, a spokesperson for state prisons told WGN Investigates that IDOC was “committed to safely admitting as many men and women from counties as possible,” adding that IDOC had agreed to close. 6,000 new inmates in state prisons since August 2020


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