COOK COUNTY, IL – Due to the unfair burden on Sheriff’s Office staff, and Cook County taxpayers, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office filed a petition for a writ of mandamus asking the Illinois Supreme Court to require the Illinois Department of Corrections to abide by Illinois law and accept immediate transfer of more than 500 individuals living in the Cook County Jail who should be in state custody or otherwise released, Sheriff Thomas J. Dart announced today.
“For more than a year and a half, the Illinois Department of Corrections has avoided its responsibility to take custody of individuals sentenced and remanded to its custody by the Circuit Court and instead has forced the Cook County Department of Corrections to hold these individuals indefinitely,” Sheriff Thomas J. Dart said. “IDOC is required by law to accept, care and keep safe those sentenced to its custody or awaiting a parole hearing. IDOC’s refusal to accept its mandate and accept these individuals into its custody comes at a severe cost for the Cook County Jail.”
The petition, filed Monday in the Supreme Court, asks the court to order IDOC officials to immediately accept transfers of all persons currently held at the Jail who lawfully belong in state custody.
On March 26, 2020, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered the suspension of all transfers of individuals from county jails to the Illinois Department of Corrections. Recognizing the financial and operational challenges posed by a rapid growth in the number of persons sentenced to IDOC custody in the Jail population, the Sheriff’s Office immediately attempted to work with the Governor and IDOC to agree on protocols that would allow the safe transfer of individuals to state custody and has strictly adhered to every requirement put forth by IDOC.
Unfortunately, the ongoing efforts by the Sheriff’s Office to encourage IDOC to fulfill its duties have been met with continued indifference by IDOC, even though its population has dropped by approximately 10,000 persons since the beginning of the pandemic, necessitating this petition.
Currently, more than 550 – or about one of every ten people held in Cook County Jail – are awaiting transfer to IDOC. This includes more than 250 people convicted of a felony offense and sentenced to a state penitentiary, of which nearly a third have less than six months until their anticipated release date, and some may likely be held in physical custody at the Jail after they are entitled to release simply because IDOC refuses to take them.
Additionally, more than 280 of these individuals in the Jail are eligible for release on bond for pending charges but cannot be released from custody due to an IDOC parole hold. The Sheriff firmly believes no person should be held in custody if they are entitled to be released, but he has no authority to discharge these individuals who are required held in custody by the State if a judge has determined they are eligible to be released on bond.
Not only do these individuals constrain Sheriff’s Office’s efforts to create social distancing at the Jail, they also are responsible for more than 40% of the fights and other security infractions that have occurred over the past year.
“The state’s refusal to do its job, only makes ours more difficult and dangerous,” Sheriff Dart said. “This has taken an incredible toll on my staff, who have had to work mandatory overtime for months to cover the additional staffing demands caused by IDOC’s refusals– missing out on planned vacations, family moments, and just much needed rest – in order to maintain a safe and secure environment for their colleagues and those in custody.”