Overcrowding has long plagued Chicago’s Cook County jail and Commissioner Larry Suffredin, (D-13th), has proposed using taxpayer dollars to bail out low-level inmates who are unable to raise the money themselves.
Constructed as a “revolving bail-bond fund,” tax dollars would be used to provide loans for inmates with bonds of $2,000 or less. Ultimately, this system would lessen the burden on taxpayers who are already footing the larger bill to keep them incarcerated.
According to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who supports Suffredin’s proposal, 90 percent of Cook County’s approximately 10,000 inmates are merely awaiting trial. Of those, 70 percent are charged with non-violent crimes and wait an estimated 57 days for a trial, costing taxpayers $143 per day.
“What we’re gonna do for these people at the $2,000 level, so these are small bonds, we’ll be able to cut that I think to at the most three days, which would mean cutting 10 days off of being in the jail awaiting to make bail,” said Suffredin. “And that would be ten days at $143 a day, so per person, we’d be saving probably, on an average, $1,4oo.”
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart also supports Suffredin’s proposal.
“We have people sitting [in jail] simply because they lack the ability to post even a low level of bond, without regard to their risk to public safety,” said Cara Smith, a spokesperson for Sheriff Dart. “You shouldn’t be in prison simply because you are poor and lack the resources.”
According to WGN, the inmate population is up more than 10% in the past two years and surpasses 10,000 on some days, which is the jail’s capacity. The closure of state mental health facilities is cited as a reason for the surge as former patients are being arrested for crimes instead of treated for their illnesses.
County officials will consider the plan and report back in March.