Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Preckwinkle Announces Plan to Ease Crowded Jail

Inmates with lower bonds are subject to be released on home electronic monitoring




    The county is taking action on a plan to make Chicago’s overcrowded jails a little less packed.

    Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke announced Thursday a new plan to release prisoners on home electronic monitoring if they have a low cash bond but can’t afford to post the required 10 percent.

    "If you have a crowded jail system and you are able to release a number of the defendants who should be released…the effect is they’ll be out and there will be more room in the jail," Preckwinkle explained at a press conference Thursday. "The long-term goal is to reduce the jail population without endangering the citizenry or the defendant."

    The plan will require sheriff and public defender's offices to review and send some old cases to judges to determine if the defendant in the case is eligible either for lower bond or to be released on home electronic monitoring.

    If a defendant is homeless, a judge will determine if they meet the requirements to be placed in a homeless shelter on home electronic monitoring.

    "The long-term goal," Preckwinkle said, "is to reduce the jail population without endangering the citizenry or the defendant."

    In the future, as part of the long-term goal, newly-arrested subjects will be eligible for a review by a judge if they can't make bail within 24 or 48 hours after the judge has set bond.

    Generally when a judge sets a low bond it is because the defendant should be able to leave jail until they are due in court without being a danger to society. In many cases defendants can't afford bail, so they are stuck in a jail cell that could be used to house someone else.

    About 10 percent of inmates currently at the Cook County Jail meet this criteria.

    Preckwinkle has spoken out in the past about ways to keep jails from being so crowded.

    In 2011, she was one of many legislators who sounded off about ticketing rather than arresting low-level pot offenders, in order to save jail space and money.