Three Cook County Jail divisions will close as part of a strategic plan to reduce operational costs and more efficiently house and care for individuals in custody within County custody, Sheriff Thomas J. Dart said today.
Beginning Monday, Feb. 1, the primary female divisions – Division 3 and Division 17 – will shut down. The female individuals in custody are in the process of being transitioned to Division 4, which had been temporarily closed and undergoing renovations for the past two years. The Division 3 population comprises all security classifications – minimum, medium and maximum. The Division 17 population has traditionally housed minimum security females, with a strong emphasis on vocational programming, drug treatment and mental health counseling. The former Division 17 individuals in custody will maintain access to the same programming in Division 4.
While Division 17 typically operates at full capacity (approximately 140 women), Division 3 has been running at about 56% capacity (about 195 individuals in custody with available bed capacity of 346). Consolidating the female population from two aging buildings into the refurbished Division 4 will save significantly in jail operational costs moving forward. Sheriff’s deputies assigned to Divisions 3 and 17 will transfer to Division 4 accordingly.
Additionally, on Friday, Feb. 8, Sheriff Dart will initiate the closure of maximum security Division 1, with those individuals in custody being transferred to other divisions throughout the jail. Division 1 has only been functioning at 44% capacity (about 550 individuals in custody with available bed capacity of 1248), so the consolidation will result in a significantly more cost-effective utilization of Cook County Jail’s buildings. Division 1’s correctional staff will be reassigned to populated divisions across the compound, allowing for increasingly efficient staffing structures and reducing overtime costs in the process. Division 1 is the oldest building on the compound, having been built and operating since the late 1920s. Therefore, its archaic infrastructure frequently required expensive custom repairs, for which the County will no longer need to foot the bill.
With the closures of Division 1, Division 3 and Division 17, there are now four Cook County Jail buildings no longer housing individuals in custody. Division 5 shut down approximately two years ago.
The building closures were made possible due in large part to a sustained increase in court-ordered electronic monitoring, an alternative to pre-trial incarceration for defendants that judges deem safe to remain within the community as their cases progress. There are currently more than 2,300 men and women assigned to electronic monitoring, up from an average of about 520 in 2009.
“These moves signify wins for County taxpayers who will benefit from reduced operational costs, including overtime, at the jail as well as our Sheriff’s deputies who will benefit from more efficient staffing models across the compound,” said Sheriff Dart. “We were able to initiate these building closures as a result of a number of important factors, including declining national crime trends and our partnership with the judiciary and other key criminal justice stakeholders. We’ve made great progress in addressing unjust incarceration and communicating to the public that pre-trial detainment should be used as a last resort for people who pose clear dangers to society, not as a default mechanism for the poor and mentally ill.”
While the female individuals in custody will maintain the same visitation schedule moving forward, the former Division 1 males may have new visitation schedules based on their new divisions. Friends and families of Cook County Jail individuals in custody can find their new division and visiting hours by accessing the individual in custody locator at www.cookcountysheriff.org.
Sheriff Dart wishes to thank the Sheriff’s deputies and supervisors who are safely and professionally facilitating the movement of hundreds of individuals in custody over the next two weeks. He also wishes to commend the staff of the Cook County Department of Facilities Management for their cooperation in bringing to fruition the building closures and the renovation of Division 4.
Sheriff Dart also wishes to thank his fellow Cook County criminal justice stakeholders – President Preckwinkle, Chief Judge Evans, State’s Attorney Alvarez, Public Defender Campanelli and Clerk Brown – for their commitment to reforming the system.