COOK COUNTY, IL – Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart announced today that the Sheriff’s Office and the Cook County Jail have succeeded in being released from federal oversight in meeting all standards set forth by a federal court and the Department of Justice.
U.S. District Judge Virginia M. Kendall of the U.S District Court for the Northern District of Illinois issued the ruling on Friday, stating that the Sheriff’s Office is in compliance of all provisions of a DOJ Agreed Order, which focused on making the Cook County Jail a safe and secure correctional facility for individuals in custody and staff. Prior to this ruling, the Cook County Jail had been under some variation of court oversight since October 1974.
This Agreed Order was formed in May 2010 between the Court, the DOJ, the County and the Sheriff’s Office, after an initial report in 2008 by the DOJ that gave the jail failing grades across the board on areas such as individual in custody safety, medical care, sanitary conditions, fire safety and excessive force. The 60-page order included more than 100 paragraphs requiring action.
Since that time, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office has opened the door to four DOJ monitors, invested hundreds of millions of dollars in structural and systemic changes and hired hundreds of staff.
“Upon becoming Sheriff in 2007, it was evident that drastic reforms were needed at the jail,” Sheriff Dart said. “Prior to the DOJ report, I began a systematic overhaul of the jail, working with the federal court and others to address the many issues identified. Today, we have systems and structures that are looked at as a beacon for correctional facilities around the country.”
Some of the investments and updates made to structures and systems include:
- The installation of 2,400 fixed cameras around the jail to increase visibility into incidents and provide accountability
- The building of the Residential Treatment Unit which contains 979 medical beds and provides appropriate facilities for medical, substance abuse and mental health treatment
- Installation of a top-of-the line computer system with jail management software touted as “one of the best in the country,” according to a DOJ monitor, to facilitate housing and movement
- Increased correctional staff by 25 percent to make the jail safer
- Substantially increased training time for correctional officers to address numerous issues.
The reforms demonstrate a commitment to sustaining progress and continued improvement. Comprehensive details of reform efforts can be found in the enclosed fact sheet.
“This is one of the most complex issues to deal with, the volume of it and the criminal justice issues and the constitutional issues are so far-reaching, and yet that far-reaching nature boils down to really macro-level detailed difficulties,” Judge Kendall said on-the-record in a previous hearing. “The fact that everyone was able to sit down at the table and work together, recognizing that there was a goal to keep getting those details fixed until the constitutionality and the comfort and the placement of our pretrial individuals in custody is appropriately handled has been absolutely invigorating for me as a judge to see.”