Cook County leaders push for prison reforms

July 7, 2011

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is pushing to reduce the number of non-violent offenders in county jails.

Preckwinkle announced the formation of a new county agency Wednesday that will focus on reforming the county jail system.  She said the agency will aim to improve the bond court system, increase the use of electronic monitoring and expand substance abuse treatment and treatment for mental illness.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said he's been trying to do those things for years.

"It's really one of the biggest problems that we have now is that there's no money for those type of programs," he said. "An organization that's gonna bring more focus to that would be a big help to me because it's been, I don't want to say it's been a lonely fight, it's just theres a lot of advocates and myself that have been pushing this and we could use all the help we could get."

Dart said the two spoke about possible ways to decrease the prison population during Preckwinkle's campaign, but he hadn't spoken about the new program with her.

The newly formed Judicial Advisory Council is budgeted for $925,000 this fiscal year. A Preckwinkle spokesman said the office hadn't yet flushed out the details of the program. The council will be led by Juliana Stratton, and Rebecca Janowitz will be the legislative coordinator.