WBEZ | Cook County http://www.wbez.org/tags/cook-county Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Illinois' child welfare system leaves kids stuck in jail http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-child-welfare-system-leaves-kids-stuck-jail-111576 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Screen%20Shot%202015-02-17%20at%207.25.53%20PM.png" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="Youth at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center at an event in 2014. A WBEZ investigation found that kids spend weeks, or even months, in the jail because DCFS can’t find a place for them to live. (Photo courtesy of Bill Healy)" /></div><p>There&rsquo;s a kid in the Cook County juvenile jail right now who isn&rsquo;t supposed to be there. A judge ordered his release on January 29.</p><p>Because he is a juvenile, WBEZ isn&rsquo;t using his name, but his problem is not unique. Even after a judge has ordered their release, lots of kids wait weeks, even months to be picked up.</p><p>Their deadbeat guardian is the State of Illinois, and these kids are stuck in juvenile jail because the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) can&rsquo;t find a place to put them.</p><p>A WBEZ analysis of data from Cook County found that in the three-year period between October 2011 and October 2014, there were 344 instances when kids waited a week or more in the jail for DCFS to come pick them up.</p><p>Last year the longest wait was 190 days&mdash;more than half the year.</p><p>And it&rsquo;s not just that there are a lot of young people waiting. They are waiting specifically because of the failures of DCFS.</p><p>Kids get sent to the juvenile jail for a number of reasons. Some are waiting for trial, others are serving a punishment. No matter who they are or why they&rsquo;re there, kids can&rsquo;t leave unless someone comes to take custody of them.</p><p>The data doesn&rsquo;t account for how many of the 344 times involved the same kid held more than once, so to check on daily counts, we asked jail staff to give us a snapshot of every kid who was waiting to be picked up. On the day we asked, Oct. 16, 2014, there were 19 kids in the jail who had been ordered released by a judge and were just waiting on a guardian to pick them up.</p><p>Thirteen were waiting for DCFS.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it sends a very disturbing message to a child to say there&rsquo;s no reason for you to be held in detention, but we&rsquo;re not working hard enough, or we&rsquo;re not making you enough of a priority to find a place for you to go,&rdquo; said Bruce Boyer, the director of the Civitas Childlaw Clinic at Loyola University Chicago.</p><p>&rdquo;We&rsquo;re talking about children that a judge has looked at their case and said, &lsquo;There&rsquo;s no risk here. This child should be at home or in a community based setting, whether it&rsquo;s a foster home or somewhere else.&rsquo; So, that&rsquo;s incredibly disruptive to the child,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Antoine Brown has lived through that disruption.</p><p>Brown is 25 now and lives in Marion, Illinois. But when he was 14, Brown spent about six months in Cook County&rsquo;s juvenile jail waiting for DCFS to find him a bed.</p><p>&ldquo;It kinda like crushes your spirit so you&rsquo;ll be like ... I don&rsquo;t care anymore so I&rsquo;m just gonna act out and do whatever I want to do,&rdquo; Brown said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s hell. I mean, if you&rsquo;re not a cool person then you get picked on.&rdquo;</p><p>Jennifer Vollen Katz with prison watchdog John Howard Association says Brown&rsquo;s frustration is typical for kids stuck in jail.</p><p>&ldquo;You will see the behavior begin to deteriorate, because that&rsquo;s just an incredibly high level of frustration for a young person to grapple with,&rdquo; Vollen Katz said.</p><p>Vollen Katz says that&rsquo;s especially bad because this is a population at a crucial point. The choices they&mdash;and their caregivers&mdash;make will decide if these kids move on from a troubled childhood to become successful adults, or get stuck in the so-called prison pipeline.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Screen%20Shot%202015-02-17%20at%207.26.47%20PM.png" style="height: 411px; width: 620px;" title="The outside of the Cook County juvenile jail at Roosevelt and Hamilton. (Photo courtesy of Bill Healy)" /></div><p>&ldquo;The system has failed them time and again, so for the system to tell them, if you do this then you&rsquo;re gonna get to go and for that not to actually happen, I think is just another indicator that trusting authority is probably not a safe bet for some of these kids,&quot; Vollen Katz said. &quot;And that&rsquo;s not a message we want to be giving them.&quot;</p><p>Boyer says many of the kids forced to wait have been in the child care system for most of their lives. Often they&rsquo;ve been abused or neglected, passed from foster home to foster home.</p><p>That means most of these young men and women truly have special needs.</p><p>&ldquo;These are the needs that really require treatment, whether it&rsquo;s counseling or other kinds of services. And these are the sorts of things that frankly are just not available in the detention center,&rdquo; Boyer said.</p><p>DCFS spokesman Andrew Flach says the department is aware of kids languishing in jail, but right now the department isn&rsquo;t planning any changes to fix it.</p><p>Flach says more money would help, but the state also needs more well-run residential treatment centers able to care for these children.</p><p>Flach believes leadership from new Director George Sheldon will eventually fix problems like kids waiting in jail.</p><p>Loyola&rsquo;s Bruce Boyer says the best way to address the problem is to keep kids out of jail in the first place.</p><p>&ldquo;If we had resources for dealing with kids who get into conflict with the law, that would allow us to find placements in the community for them that would be a lot less expensive than maintaining kids in a very expensive detention facility,&rdquo; Boyer said. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know how we break out of this cycle, but we have to figure out a way &hellip; to be more farsighted.&rdquo;</p><p>Cook County estimates that it costs more than $500 a day to house one person in the juvenile temporary detention center.</p><p>And those instances when kids waited a week or more&mdash;the time they spent waiting on DCFS adds up to more than 7,300 days in Cook County juvenile jail.</p><p>That&rsquo;s almost $4 million taxpayer dollars spent over three years.</p><p>And for all that money, the kids didn&rsquo;t get special counseling or intensive therapy. Instead, they got all the wrong lessons about the justice system, and a pretty direct message that they don&rsquo;t matter. At least not enough.</p><p><em><a href="http://twitter.com/pksmid" target="_blank">Patrick Smith</a> is a WBEZ producer and reporter. Angela Caputo also contributed reporting for this story.</em></p></p> Tue, 17 Feb 2015 19:22:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-child-welfare-system-leaves-kids-stuck-jail-111576 Unions sue to stop Chicago pension overhaul http://www.wbez.org/news/unions-sue-stop-chicago-pension-overhaul-111239 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/city hall chicago flickr daniel x o nell.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Current and retired city workers and their labor unions have filed a lawsuit arguing a law overhauling Chicago&#39;s pension systems is unconstitutional.</p><p>The lawsuit filed Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court also asks a judge to stop the law from taking effect Jan. 1.</p><p>Chicago has the worst-funded pension system of any major U.S. city.</p><p>Legislation approved last year seeks to eliminate a $9.4 billion unfunded liability in two pension systems by increasing contributions and cutting benefits. It would affect about 57,000 laborers and municipal employees.</p><p>The plaintiffs are 12 current and former workers and four unions, including AFSCME Council 31 and the Illinois Nurses Association.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel says the law is constitutional. He says the changes are needed to ensure pension funds remain solvent and retirees receive benefits.</p></p> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 13:04:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/unions-sue-stop-chicago-pension-overhaul-111239 Community prosecutions credited with drop in crime http://www.wbez.org/news/community-prosecutions-credited-drop-crime-110582 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Uptown theater_flickr_BWChicago.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Placing prosecutors in a neighborhood instead of a courtroom is a different kind of &quot;law and order.&quot; A University of Chicago law professor says his research shows community prosecution has had an immediate and measurable impact on violent crime.</p><p><em>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/2014/07/31/336765946/community-prosecutions-credited-with-drops-in-crime?ft=1&amp;f=" target="_blank">hear the story from NPR&#39;s Morning Edition</a></em></p></p> Thu, 31 Jul 2014 07:38:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/community-prosecutions-credited-drop-crime-110582 Burying Cook County's unclaimed dead http://www.wbez.org/news/burying-cook-countys-unclaimed-dead-110092 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Burial 1.2.jpg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="Jesse Aguirre’s family could not afford a funeral and so they left his body at Cook County’s morgue. The county buried him this spring." />In a corner of Mount Olive Cemetery in Chicago&rsquo;s far north side, wooden sawhorses and orange plastic cones sat as if part of a construction zone. But then, several hearses drove-up and 23 adult coffins were placed on the sawhorses.</p><p>Cook County usually buries unclaimed bodies in the warm months, when the ground is soft and burials are easier. The burials include many people whose families cannot afford funerals.</p><p>Jesse Aguirre clutched a handful of flowers. He walked up to a man with a clipboard and asked which car was carrying his father, also named Jesse Aguirre. The man pointed. The Aguirre family watched as a plain wooden box was pulled out of the hearse.</p><p>&ldquo;He passed four days before Christmas, so December 21st,&rdquo; says Jesse of his dead father.</p><p>The family has been waiting four months to bury Jesse Aguirre. They say they did not claim the body because they couldn&rsquo;t afford a funeral.</p><p>Jessica Aguirre is wearing a t-shirt with her grandfather&rsquo;s birth and death date on it and a picture of him, beaming. &ldquo;He was a great guy. Always smiling,&rdquo; she said.&nbsp;</p><p>Jessica said she was heartbroken when her family could not bury her grandfather. &ldquo;I was waiting and waiting and waiting. (I was) actually trying to work as much as I could so I wouldn&rsquo;t accept that he was gone,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Jessica said it was not until she saw her grandfather put in the ground, that she finally accepted his death. &ldquo;He&rsquo;s going to be here, so I can always come and visit him,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>The Aguirre family hugged county staff and thanked them. The burial was the result of a collaboration that started in a dark time for the Cook County Medical Examiners Office. About two years ago, media reported that the morgue was overcrowded. Bodies were stacked on top of one another and the remains of stillborn babies were tossed into boxes.</p><p>Marty Flagg, Vice-President of the Cook County Funeral Directors Association, saw pictures on the news. &ldquo;The first thing that ran through my mind was &lsquo;some action needs to be taken for these people to get them buried.&rsquo; And immediately I picked up the phone and called a couple of other members of Cook County Funeral Association and said &lsquo;I got an idea&rsquo;&rdquo;.&nbsp;</p><p>Flagg proposed that funeral directors volunteer their services.&nbsp; At the same time, the Archdiocese of Chicago decided to donate funeral plots. Roman Szabelski is with Catholic Cemeteries. &ldquo;There is an old quote, I wish I memorized more of it, it said, &lsquo;See how a community treats their dead and you will learn a lot about that country,&rdquo; said Szabelski.</p><p>The Funeral Directors Association and Catholic Cemeteries have buried about 200 people over the last two years. But this is the last burial with the donated plots. Burials will continue at Homewood Memorial Gardens Cemetery where the county has a contract.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Burial%202.1.jpg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="Jesse Aguirre’s family could not afford a funeral and so they left his body at Cook County’s morgue. The county buried him this spring. (WBEZ/Shannon Heffernan)" />Homewood also came under attack a few years ago for mishandling indigent burials.<br />But the county says a lot has changed since then.</p><p>&ldquo;Right now, we are changing all our processes and looking at them very carefully,&rdquo; said James Sledge, Executive Officer at Cook County&rsquo;s Medical Examiners Office.</p><p>The county has a purchased a new cooler and passed an ordinance that allows cremation. Cremation may save the county money and prevent overcrowding in the future, but so far, few bodies have been cremated. &ldquo;At the moment, burial is still the preferred method for everyone in Cook County,&rdquo; said Sledge.</p><p>The county says it will not creamate any unidentified bodies because someone could eventually claim them, or they could be needed in an investigation. Their website currently lists 36 unidentified remains-- a man with tattoos of wings found in an abandoned building and a young female found in a parking lot are among those listed.</p><p>Sometimes, the public website has pictures of the bodies to help identify them. The site also lists the names of 83 people who have been identified but are unclaimed.</p><p>Most of the time loved ones do not show up for the burials. But today, each body has a volunteer, usually a funeral director, who will stay until the body is buried. Chrissy Knauer Fisk works at a funeral vault company and volunteered to accompany Roberta Hall&rsquo;s body. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m honored to be Roberta&rsquo;s person,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Knauer Fisk stands with her hand on the coffin. A truck comes and lowers the body into the ground. Knauer Fisk looks around and tries to memorize the location. The only thing she knows about Roberta Hall is her name. But Knauer Fisk says she plans to come visit. She said, &ldquo;She has to have someone, why not me?&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan covers policy and social service issues for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/shannon_h">@shannon_h</a></em></p></p> Tue, 29 Apr 2014 09:55:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/burying-cook-countys-unclaimed-dead-110092 Judge allows same-sex couples to marry in Cook County starting now http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/judge-allows-same-sex-couples-marry-cook-county-starting-now-109751 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP935573141163.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A federal judge is allowing same-sex couples to get married in Cook County, starting immediately.</p><p>Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman&rsquo;s ruling, issued this morning, applies only to Cook County, Illinois&rsquo; most populous county, which includes the city of Chicago.</p><p>Coleman&rsquo;s written order says couples should not have to wait for a state law, passed last year, to go into effect. The measure passed by the legislature and signed by Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn set June 1 as the date on which same-sex couples could legally marry in Illinois.</p><p>Coleman wrote, &ldquo;Committed gay and lesbian couples have already suffered from the denial of their fundamental right to marry.&rdquo;</p><p>She also quoted Martin Luther King, Jr. writing, &ldquo;The time is always ripe to do right.&rdquo;</p><p>The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and Lambda Legal filed the lawsuit against the Cook County Clerk on behalf of a handful of same-sex couples seeking the right to marry immediately.</p><p>County Clerk David Orr was the state officer formally listed as the defendant. But because Orr supports same-sex marriage, there was no opposition to the lawsuit, and he moved promptly to announce and put the order into effect.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re thrilled that Judge Coleman recognized the serious harm to the many Illinois families from continuing to deny them the freedom to marry,&rdquo; said John Knight, LGBT and AIDS Project Director for the ACLU of Illinois. &ldquo;The U.S. Constitution guarantees these families the personal and emotional benefits as well as the critical legal protections of marriage now, and we are thankful that the court extended this dignity to couples immediately.&rdquo;</p><p>Couples in Cook County must wait a day after getting a license before they can be married.</p><p>Meantime, county clerks in the rest of Illinois are waiting to see if the ruling applies to them as well. Coleman wrote in her ruling, &ldquo;Although this Court finds that the marriage ban for same-sex couples violates the Fourteenth Amendment&rsquo;s Equal Protection Clause on its face, this finding can only apply to Cook County based upon the posture of the lawsuit.&rdquo;</p><p>Katherine Schultz -- clerk of McHenry County in Chicago&rsquo;s outer northwest suburbs -- said she&rsquo;s waiting for June 1 to issue marriage licenses until told specifically otherwise.</p><p>&ldquo;Until there is something more definite given to McHenry County, and I would assume other outlying counties, we will go by what the state statute says,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Schultz said that even if she were ordered to start granting marriage licenses to gay couples, she doesn&rsquo;t have the right state forms yet.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">@tonyjarnold</a>.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em>Alex Keefe covers politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/akeefe">@akeefe</a>.</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 21 Feb 2014 12:16:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/judge-allows-same-sex-couples-marry-cook-county-starting-now-109751 Cook County morgue gets new cooler, hires workers http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-morgue-gets-new-cooler-hires-workers-109699 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/morgue.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>The Cook County Medical Examiner&#39;s office says conditions are improving at the morgue thanks to more employees and a new $1.4 million cooler.</p><p>Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Medical Examiner Dr. Stephen Cina offered media a look at the cooler on Thursday.</p><p>The event was meant to show how much the office has improved 18 months after a string of embarrassing news stories about bodies bing stacked haphazardly and the remains of stillborn babies tossed into boxes.</p><p>Officials noted that improvements included the hiring of nearly two dozen employees in addition to the cooler.</p><p>Cina was hired in 2012 to replace the former medical examiner, who retired when Preckwinkle announced that she would overhaul the office.</p><p>Cina was chief administrator at the University of Miami&#39;s Tissue Bank.</p></p> Thu, 13 Feb 2014 15:33:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-morgue-gets-new-cooler-hires-workers-109699 Cook County Commissioners unanimously approve 2014 budget http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-commissioners-unanimously-approve-2014-budget-109117 <p><p>As Republican Cook County Commissioner Peter Silvestri put it, the 2014 budget is one the board and county residents can be proud of.</p><p>&ldquo;No taxes, no fees, no layoffs, no problem,&rdquo; Silvestri said, during the final vote on the budget Friday.</p><p>All 17 Cook County commissioners voted to approve the $3.2 billion dollar spending plan for the next fiscal year. The budget came out balanced in the end, even though the county originally faced a $152 million dollar shortfall.</p><p>Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said filling that hole is mostly thanks to the Affordable Care Act. The county is set to receive millions of dollars in federal reimbursements for expanding the county&rsquo;s Medicaid system, known as CountyCare. Dr. Ramanathan Raju, head of the Cook County Health and Hospitals system, said it has already surpassed their goal of 115,000 applications for the program. As of the budget vote, Raju said the county had initiated around 122,000 applications.</p><p>Democratic Commissioner Larry Suffredin said the assistance through the Affordable Care Act will help the county focus their attention elsewhere.</p><p>&ldquo;As we look at the sea change here from healthcare to public safety, we have a number of issues we need to work on,&rdquo; Suffredin said. &ldquo;We have, unfortunately, the largest single-site jail in the United States. We need to reduce the number of people who are in there.&rdquo;</p><p>Now that the 2014 budget is set, both Preckwinkle and Suffredin say the board&rsquo;s next task is to tackle the county&rsquo;s pension fund.</p><p>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a>.</p></p> Sat, 09 Nov 2013 08:54:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-commissioners-unanimously-approve-2014-budget-109117 Dart: Court records in Cook County shameful http://www.wbez.org/news/dart-court-records-cook-county-shameful-108890 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Court File.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>As the clerk of the circuit court Dorothy Brown&rsquo;s office gets a hundred million dollars a year to maintain the court files in Cook County.&nbsp; But despite that budget and 13 years in office, Brown has been unable to wean the system off of paper.</p><p>On Wednesday Sheriff Dart invited reporters into the jail to see the inefficiency first hand.</p><p>&ldquo;I am no longer going to sit by quietly and say, you know, you guys keep meeting and discussing this and talking about this,&rdquo; said Dart.&nbsp; &ldquo;The time for discussing and talking is over.&nbsp; This has got to get done now.&nbsp; It&rsquo;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?&nbsp; Probably the 1920s, 30s maybe?&rdquo;</p><p>Dart showed reporters the court file of one man and it was probably 10 inches thick.</p><p>&ldquo;You get stacks and stacks and stacks of paper that hasn&rsquo;t changed, truly, in 50, 60 years now.&nbsp; 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&rsquo;re tracking 10 thousand people,&rdquo; said Dart.</p><p>In a statement emailed to WBEZ last week Brown&rsquo;s office said they&rsquo;ve made many updates placing the system quote, &ldquo;well into the 21st century.&rdquo; Despite that statement, the fact remains they&rsquo;re still using carbon copies.</p></p> Thu, 10 Oct 2013 11:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/dart-court-records-cook-county-shameful-108890 In Cook County, you can be found not guilty, and still go back to jail http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-you-can-be-found-not-guilty-and-still-go-back-jail-108758 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Cook County Jail.JPG" alt="" /><p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F112453764" width="100%"></iframe></p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-5e307626-523e-fed3-04c3-447ac1fc4ec8">Brian Otero spent nearly two years in Cook County Jail waiting to go to trial for a burglary. The jury found him not guilty, but he didn&rsquo;t get to leave the courtroom like they do on TV. No, he was brought back into the Cook County Jail to be &ldquo;processed&rdquo; out. He was put in a small cell just off the front of the courtroom, to eventually be brought back into the jail.</p><p dir="ltr">Now remember, at this point, there are no charges against Otero, yet he&rsquo;s being detained against his will because that&rsquo;s just how we&rsquo;ve always done it in Cook County. Defendants who have been held in jail awaiting trial are brought back into the jail. They can be handcuffed, searched, and locked back up in their cell even though there are no charges against them.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Sheriff Tom Dart and county officials are doing little to change the seemingly unconstitutional practice and that could cost taxpayers millions</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>&quot;Free&quot; man</strong></p><p dir="ltr">On his way back into the jail after acquittal, Otero was put in a holding cell with a number of other inmates and three men attacked him.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;They approached me and asked me, &lsquo;Did you win your case, are you going home today?&rsquo;&rdquo; Otero said in an interview in his attorney&#39;s Loop law office. &ldquo;Upon me saying &lsquo;yes&rsquo; one of them swung at me and when he swung at me the other two grabbed me and they started hitting me all over my body.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Otero says two of his friends were in the same bullpen, and they pulled his attackers off but he had a busted lip and a sprained hand.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;To this day I got a torn ligament in my hand, but I did not seek or ask for no medical attention. &nbsp;I just let it be because I was just trying to hurry up and get out as fast as I can,&rdquo; said Otero.</p><p dir="ltr">Otero was eventually brought back to his cell, to wait. Ten hours after he was acquitted he was finally released from the jail.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;When I walked out the front gate from division 5 onto the streets, it was 4 o&rsquo;clock in the morning.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Presumed innocent</strong></p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Mr Otero, when he walks into that trial is assumed innocent, right? &nbsp;And then he is found innocent, so the system ought to be better prepared to do this,&rdquo; says Otero&rsquo;s attorney Mike Cherry.</p><p dir="ltr">Cherry is suing Cook County and Sheriff Tom Dart on behalf of Brian Otero and other detainees. He says he thinks the practice of jailing people when they&rsquo;ve been found not guilty would offend most Americans&rsquo; sense of justice. On top of that, he says, it doesn&rsquo;t happen to people with money. It happens mostly to poor people, people who were in jail before trial because they couldn&rsquo;t afford to post bond.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Basically the lawsuit challenges as unconstitutional this process that happened, because it denies him his freedom,&rdquo; says Cherry. He says when Otero was acquitted he should have been released.</p><p dir="ltr">Sheriff Tom Dart, who runs the jail, says he wishes that were case too.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We&rsquo;re trying to get people out of the jail as quickly as possible for a myriad of reasons, whether it&#39;s just general overcrowding issues, potential liability issues, everything,&rdquo; Dart said in an interview with WBEZ in May of this year.</p><p dir="ltr">The sheriff didn&rsquo;t have a solution for the problem then, but said,&rdquo;I do think that probably in the next few weeks some of these limited cases, the limited ones, we probably can come up with some things, so if you circle back, you know in the next couple weeks, we could have something on some of them.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">I circled back, and I circled back again. Weeks turned into months and so far the grand solution is riding on two personal computers in the basement of the courthouse in north suburban Skokie.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Skokie pilot program</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Cook County has one jail but a number of courthouses, so every morning buses leave the jail at 26th and California on the city&rsquo;s Southwest Side, filled with detainees who have hearings at courthouses around the county. In Skokie, a bus from the jail drives into a secure garage in the basement. The detainees are nearly silent as they file two by two, handcuffed together, off the bus and past an officer who checks them in.</p><p dir="ltr">The new computers here emit beeping sounds every time an officer scans a detainee&#39;s I.D. card. The two computers are the start of a plan to finally digitize some of the paperwork in the jail, and a spokeswoman for Dart say it&rsquo;s possible that the update could potentially, one day, possibly allow people to be immediately released from courtrooms when they&rsquo;re acquitted.</p><p dir="ltr">But I ask Kelly Jackson, the chief of the civil division for Sheriff Dart, how long that will take?</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I couldn&rsquo;t even answer that for you. I have no idea,&rdquo; Jackson said. &ldquo;Skokie&rsquo;s operating right now but it&rsquo;s the only one of the 17 court facilities that are doing that. There would be no way to estimate if we could, when we&rsquo;ll finish rolling it out everywhere, and where our legal department and the state&rsquo;s attorneys office will take us with that.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">A spokeswoman for Dart says starting this week they&rsquo;re going to allow people found not guilty to leave from the Skokie courthouse. They still won&rsquo;t be walking right out of the courtroom, but at least they won&rsquo;t have to go back on the bus to the jail at 26th and California. It&rsquo;s a start.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>A court system stuck in past</strong></p><p dir="ltr">But even if the sheriff&rsquo;s office makes the technological leap to the 1990s in all 17 courthouses, the rest of the Cook County court system under Clerk of Courts Dorothy Brown is pretty solidly stuck in the 70s. The whole court system is paper and carbon copies. That presents a problem for Lt. Charles Luna when he&rsquo;s supposed to release someone from the jail.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We&rsquo;re still using carbon paper in the courts, so the clerks actually write on the mittimuses that are carbon paper, actually, the duplicates, so in order to transfer the records to the jail, it&rsquo;s actually in triplicate I believe, because one is kept in the court in the clerk&rsquo;s office and then two are sent to the jail for our purposes,&rdquo; says Luna. Whatever the case, it&rsquo;s a lot of paper and before Luna lets an inmate out of the jail he has to organize and verify the inmate&rsquo;s entire court file, which can be several inches thick with those carbon copies.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;At times it can be like looking for a needle in a haystack,&rdquo; Luna said.</p><p dir="ltr">But that doesn&rsquo;t do anything to sway attorney Mike Cherry, who is suing Cook County on behalf of Brian Otero, the guy at the beginning of the story who was found not guilty and then taken back into the jail where he was assaulted. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t have one ounce of pity when a system says I&rsquo;ve got to take advantage of someone because it&rsquo;s too complicated for me to protect the innocent. &nbsp;That&rsquo;s crazy,&rdquo; &nbsp;says Cherry. It&rsquo;s also potentially very costly.</p><p dir="ltr">Ten years ago Los Angeles County had to pay out $27 million to people who&#39;d been held in the jail after they were acquitted.</p><p dir="ltr">While it&rsquo;s Sheriff Dart who is detaining people, it&rsquo;s Cook County State&rsquo;s Attorney Anita Alvarez who tells Dart what he needs to do to comply with the constitution. For two weeks Alvarez&rsquo;s office has failed to provide WBEZ with any explanation as to whether the current practices are constitutional, or what her office is doing to ensure Cook County doesn&rsquo;t have to pay out millions in settlements arising from this practice of detaining people after they&rsquo;ve been found not guilty.</p><p dir="ltr">Attorney Mike Cherry says he hopes his lawsuit is expensive enough that it finally forces the county to do something.</p></p> Wed, 25 Sep 2013 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-you-can-be-found-not-guilty-and-still-go-back-jail-108758 31 charged in alleged Chicago-area heroin ring http://www.wbez.org/news/31-charged-alleged-chicago-area-heroin-ring-108559 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP453323544602.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>WHEATON, Ill. &mdash; DuPage County prosecutors and the Drug Enforcement Administration say 31 people have been charged with allegedly taking part in a heroin-selling ring in Cook and DuPage counties.</p><p>Authorities announced Wednesday that the heroin conspiracy and sales charges came after a six-month investigation into the alleged ring.</p><p>Seventeen of those arrested also were charged with violating the state&#39;s new racketeering law targeting street gangs. Those charged under the law face tougher penalties upon conviction if prosecutors prove their illegal activities were part of a larger criminal conspiracy.</p><p>DuPage County State&#39;s Attorney Robert Berlin says heroin has led to led to 70 deaths in his county in the past 20 months.</p><p>He says he hopes the arrests serve as a deterrent to others considering dealing the drug.</p></p> Thu, 29 Aug 2013 10:22:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/31-charged-alleged-chicago-area-heroin-ring-108559