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Dart: Summer Jail Crowding Not As Bad As Feared

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Cook County Jail (Credit: CBS)

Cook County Jail (Credit: CBS)

Mike Krauser Mike Krauser
Mike Krauser has been a reporter, anchor, producer, writer, managing...
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CHICAGO (CBS) – Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart predicted several months ago that summer would bring a dramatic increase in the population of the jail, and that’s come true, but he said they’re managing so far.

“These numbers are, God they’re hard, they’re really hard on our staff,” Dart said. “I actually had feared it was going to be a lot worse right now. If we can get through toward the end of September, we’ll be okay.”

In late march, when the jail population was just 8 shy of capacity, Dart sounded the alarm, fearing the typical summer spike in crime could push the population to dangerous levels. On Wednesday, the sheriff said they’ve been able to keep the situation manageable — for now.

WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports the sheriff’s website lists the daily jail population. Wednesday morning, it was at 12,428.

“We’re very crowded,” Dart said. “A hair under 10,000 in custody, and another 2,500 on electronic home monitoring, and I have about 250 spread in eight different jails downstate.”

Dart said, with electronic monitoring and moving detainees downstate, nobody has been forced to sleep on the floors of the jail in nearly six years, after it had been a custom to do so for decades.

The daily cost to house inmates downstate is $55 a day per inmate, compared to $143 a day at Cook County Jail.

While they’re managing the current population, Dart said, “Everything gets more difficult. The fights get bigger, and then you’ve got the heat.”

The various jail divisions do have air conditioning, but with more detainees crammed into spaces not designed to hold them, the heat can still be pretty bad.

Dart said overtime costs for the deputies who work at the jail is a problem, too.

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