Cook County's Alvarez says most in Cook Jail have violent pasts

April 9, 2014

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez says 82 percent of the people in the jail have two or more incidents of violence in their background. That paints a drastically different picture of the population than that being pushed by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

Preckwinkle doesn’t run the jail, but as head of the county board she has to pay for it. For the past couple years she’s been drawing attention to overcrowding, saying 70 percent of the people held are there for nonviolent offenses.

Alvarez says that doesn’t take into account the criminal histories of the detainees.

“Maybe they got picked up on a drug case this time but they have a long history of violence, they have a long history of failing to appear in court. All that has to be taken into account when a judge sets bond,” Alvarez said Tuesday after a speech at the City Club of Chicago.

The Illinois Supreme Court recently stepped in to clean up major problems in Cook County’s bond court system. The Court found that judges don’t have good information when they’re trying to decide whether someone should be deprived of their freedom and locked up while awaiting trial.