Proposal could ease mass incarceration problems at Cook County jail

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CHICAGO -- The long-standing problem of mass incarceration led Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart to ask why so many people are being held in the county jail.

The reasons often have to do with a lack of cash, not the seriousness of the crime. The sheriff says it’s not because the offenders are bad, but because they’re broke and cannot afford to pay bond.

The average cost of keeping an inmate in the Cook County jail for a single day is 143 dollars. That`s typically more than the value of the goods an accused shoplifter is caught stealing.

“I thought this idea up that said for these limited non-violent offenses, you can`t be held for more than 30 days while this case is being sorted out,” Sherriff Dart says.

His idea became the “Accelerated Resolution Court Act.” It passed the general assembly and was signed into law by Gov Rauner. It became known as the “Rocket Docket” and now Sheriff Dart has his sights set on expanding the program to minor drug and traffic offenses.

WGN’s Mike Lowe has more.