People arrested for minor traffic offenses and small-volume drug cases will no longer spend months in Cook County Jail under legislation Gov. Bruce Rauner signed Friday.
Following last year’s successful “Rocket Docket” pilot project designed to move non-violent offenders through the Cook County Jail more quickly, Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart launched an effort this year to make more non-violent individuals in custody eligible for the program.
The first effort targeted people charged with minor retail theft or criminal trespass. The Accelerated Resolution Program places a 30-day deadline on the justice system to adjudicate the cases, so individuals in custody don’t spend months in jail just because they can’t make bail. “The jail is meant to house people who are a threat to the community, not down-on-their-luck folks for whom longer-than-necessary incarceration means the loss of a job and no way to provide for their families,” Sheriff Dart said.
Following Sheriff Dart’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, the bill passed the House and Senate with bi-partisan majorities. State Rep. Michael Zalewski, D-Riverside, sponsored the bill in the House of Representatives and State Sen. Bill Cunningham, D-Chicago led the effort in the state senate.
“Illinois continues to make progress in modernizing our criminal justice laws to reform a system that has failed far too many,” Rep. Zalewski said. “The ‘Rocket Docket’ expansion will continue to ensure high bond amounts are reserved for violent offenders while forcing stakeholders to consistently communicate. I am pleased that House Bill 6190 has become law and thank Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and Senator Bill Cunningham for their leadership and Governor Rauner for signing this important legislation.”
“The smart approach to law enforcement is keeping dangerous criminals locked up and not allowing people charged with petty offenses to clog up the justice system,” Sen. Cunningham added. Under the bill, Sheriff Dart’s office identifies people who meet the criteria of having been in the Cook County Jail for at least three days charged with:
1) Retail theft under $300.
2) Criminal trespass.
3) Minor traffic offenses. (Drunk driving offenses are not eligible.)
4) Class 4 Controlled Substances Act violations.
People who have been convicted of a violent crime within the past 10 years are not eligible.
The clock starts ticking on a deadline of 30 days from the day their case was assigned to a judge to adjudicate their case, get them convicted, acquitted or released on their own recognizance from jail.