Thousands of outstanding warrants are tied to non-violent crimes and are more than a decade old, according to a report released today by Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart as part of his ongoing push to better utilize police resources and end unjust incarceration.
A first-of-its-kind analysis of more than 44,000 outstanding warrants held by the Sheriff’s Office finds that more than half of those arrest orders are not tied to crimes, but rather violations of court orders, such as probation or supervision. Most of those court orders are not tied to underlying violent crimes.
Thousands of individuals face immediate arrest and detention by police over failing to complete programs or drug tests – mandates that stemmed originally from a non-violent charge.
“Police need to focus their time and energy on violent offenders, but this system too often has us wasting time and money catching and jailing people over relatively minor issues,” Sheriff Dart said. “Fixing this system will help ensure officers can focus on violence, save taxpayer resources and help end the practice of hauling people away from their jobs and families with little thought to whether the offense fits the punishment.”
Sheriff Dart is pushing legislation, HB3794, to help ensure the justice system weighs the alleged infractions against the use of police resources as well as the potential harm to the individual sought. The legislation is sponsored by state Rep. Arthur Turner.
The legislation, now in the state House, requires that warrants for violating probation, supervision or conditional discharge expire after 5 years if the underlying crime is not weapon related or a forcible felony and 10 years otherwise. The warrant could be extended upon motion by the State’s Attorney. The legislation does not impact warrants issued for alleged crimes or warrants issued for offenders who skip bail and fail to return to court.
The Sheriff’s analysis found that more than 11,000 outstanding warrants for violations of court orders are 10 years or older and more than 1,700 are 20 years or older.