Dart: Court records in Cook County shameful

October 10, 2013

WBEZ/Robert Wildeboer
The Cook County Court system runs on paper. Clerks often write out the court orders and workers at the jail have to try to figure out what the orders say. This is a real court order with which Sheriff’s deputies have to figure out if a person should be brought back to the jail, sent to the Illinois Department of Corrections, or released.

As the clerk of the circuit court Dorothy Brown’s office gets a hundred million dollars a year to maintain the court files in Cook County.  But despite that budget and 13 years in office, Brown has been unable to wean the system off of paper.

On Wednesday Sheriff Dart invited reporters into the jail to see the inefficiency first hand.

“I am no longer going to sit by quietly and say, you know, you guys keep meeting and discussing this and talking about this,” said Dart.  “The time for discussing and talking is over.  This has got to get done now.  It’s frankly embarrassing that this is how our county operates through this paper driven system, that honest, when do you think the last time this changed?  Probably the 1920s, 30s maybe?”

Dart showed reporters the court file of one man and it was probably 10 inches thick.

“You get stacks and stacks and stacks of paper that hasn’t changed, truly, in 50, 60 years now.  I mean honestly this is embarrassing that in our county this is how we move bodies through the system. Today I had 10 thousand people in here, and this is how we’re tracking 10 thousand people,” said Dart.

In a statement emailed to WBEZ last week Brown’s office said they’ve made many updates placing the system quote, “well into the 21st century.” Despite that statement, the fact remains they’re still using carbon copies.