It was moving day Saturday behind the barbed wire fence of Cook County Jail, as inmates helped to haul in dozens of used beds to house some of their own.
Sophia Ansari, Cook County Sheriff’s Office said “We’re delivering 37 beds today in anticipation of their use as the jail population is climbing at Cook County.”
WGN’s cameras were invited in, to show where less-violent offenders will be placed, temporarily as the jail at 26th and California inches closer to its maximum levels of just more than 10,000 inmates.
“Still at that point we’re doing the best we can to accommodate as many people as we can put on electronic monitoring we are,” Ansari said.
A jail employee said it happens every year– as the jail population increases during the warmer months, more beds are brought in.
In March, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle asked Sheriff Tom Dart to release 1,500 detainees to home monitoring, instead of keeping them behind bars, saving bed space and money.
“I am confident that we can find 1,500 people who can safely be put on electronic monitoring given that 70% of the people in the jails awaiting trial are in jail for non-violent offenses.”
In a statement, Cook County’s Chief Judge Timothy Evans said the federal court has given the sheriff “Absolute authority to release, on his own, up to 1,500 detainees on electronic monitoring at any given time.”
The sheriff’s department says that space is quickly used up, which is why they’re making room– so inmates don’t sleep on the floor.
Ansari says “There’s only a certain population we can, so for those we can, we are. But until then and things change we’re kind of stuck housing all those people as best as we can.”