WBEZ | Cook County Sheriff http://www.wbez.org/tags/cook-county-sheriff Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Views differ on job description in Cook sheriff's race http://www.wbez.org/news/views-differ-job-description-cook-sheriffs-race-109781 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/tom dart_AP.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Incumbent Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has much more money and name recognition than any of his three challengers for the March 18 Democratic primary. The contest has not been getting much attention.</p><p>But the race is underscoring how much the sheriff&rsquo;s job has changed since Dart took office in 2006.</p><p>On a recent chilly Monday morning, challenger Bill Evans greeted shivering commuters at the 95th Street &amp; Dan Ryan &lsquo;L&rsquo; stop, handing out campaign literature. One of his palm cards features a photo of a younger, shirtless Evans, from his days as a professional boxer.</p><p>Evans is a compact, energetic guy who is now fighting Dart for the sheriff&rsquo;s job in next month&rsquo;s primary. Like the other two challengers, Evans is pitching himself as a lawman -- a 23-year veteran of the Cook County Sheriff&rsquo;s police, who now works the graveyard shift as a lieutenant.</p><p>Evans walked over to some uniformed Chicago cops patrolling the train station. They are members of a group he sees as a key potential support base, especially after nabbing the endorsement of Chicago&rsquo;s police union in January.</p><p>&ldquo;Hopefully you guys consider me,&rdquo; Evans told the officers. &ldquo;Spread it around a little bit. We gotta stick together.&rdquo;</p><p>Evans admits he feels a bit like a duck out of water having to campaign for a job in law enforcement.</p><p>And that is a unique thing about the sheriff&rsquo;s post. It&rsquo;s a law enforcement job that requires a politician&rsquo;s savvy to get. Dart was won his 2006 election comfortably, after serving as a top aide to his predecessor, Democrat Michael Sheahan. Dart was handily re-elected in 2010.</p><p>He now faces his most crowded primary in years. In addition to Evans, Dart is being challenged by longtime Cook County Sheriff&rsquo;s police officer <a href="http://www.bakerforchange.com/Platform.html">Sylvester Baker</a>, the only African-American in the race; and <a href="http://palkaforsheriff2014.com/about-ted-palka/">Tadeusz &ldquo;Ted&rdquo; Palka</a>, a former deputy sheriff.</p><p>(Palka did not respond to an interview request from WBEZ.)</p><p>Dart&rsquo;s office runs a county jail long troubled with overcrowding, provides security for courtrooms, and patrols parts of the county.</p><p>But Dart has expanded the job description during his two terms in office. And candidates such as Evans say that raises questions about what the job should be, and what type of person is most suited to it: a politician or a cop.</p><p>&ldquo;We have a colossal mess in our county jail,&rdquo; Evans said. &ldquo;We have understaffing issues, we have, uh, supervision issues...and yet this sheriff wants to take on even more responsibilities that have nothing to do with his office.&rdquo;</p><p>For example, Evans and other candidates have criticized Dart&rsquo;s latest effort to to act as a corruption watchdog for some of Chicago&rsquo;s south suburbs, on top of his other duties.</p><p>And they suggest his much-publicized re-investigation of the John Wayne Gacy murders should have been a low priority for an office with so many responsibilities, even if it was a high-profile case.</p><p>But Dart defends those moves, saying he is tired of public officials who just do the bare minimum.</p><p>&ldquo;I looked as this as a mandate to get very involved with the criminal justice system, not just to sit here and say, &lsquo;Okay, here&rsquo;s your blanket, here&rsquo;s your bologna sandwich, there&rsquo;s your cell,&rsquo;&rdquo; Dart told WBEZ in a recent interview. &ldquo;Instead to look at it and say, &lsquo;Okay, well why are all these people flooding into the jail?&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>So Dart says he focuses on treatment, not just lockup.</p><p>For example, he has started to connect prostitutes with social services. And after a federal court order, his office has added <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/dart-%E2%80%98we%E2%80%99re-criminalizing-mental-health%E2%80%99-102218">mental health services</a> for the large portion of inmates at the jail who self-identify as mentally ill.</p><p>Dart maintains his different approach to the job has not taken away from his other duties. But since taking office, there has been an uptick in how often sheriff&rsquo;s police lend help to other jurisdictions.</p><p>Between 2007 and 2011, the Cook County Sheriff&rsquo;s Office assisted other agencies an average of 8,477 times a year, according to data provided by the sheriff. Between 2012 and 2013, the average jumped to 10,700.</p><p>His approach highlights what challenger Baker says is a problem with Dart: &ldquo;He&rsquo;s never been a law enforcement professional...I say that because...you have a different philosophy when you have never actually been in law enforcement.&rdquo;</p><p>Baker spent more than two decades as a Cook County Sheriff&rsquo;s officer, and he wants a tighter focus on a county-wide policing strategy aimed at reducing crime.</p><p>But Dart&rsquo;s background might be good for Cook County, said John Maki, who heads a non-partisan prison watchdog group called The John Howard Association.</p><p>Even though Dart is not a cop, Maki says the sheriff has used his politicians&rsquo; instinct to bring media attention to some of the big problems facing the criminal justice system.</p><p>&ldquo;The thing that I&rsquo;ve been impressed with is how he&rsquo;s used his office to kinda shine light on problems that the jail are simply not equipped to deal with -- poverty, mental illness,&rdquo; Maki said.</p><p>But Maki pointed out that &nbsp;the Cook County Jail is still being watched by a federal monitor,in large part because of longstanding overcrowding. The jail for decades has been under the eyes of the feds, on grounds of violating inmates&rsquo; constitutional rights with unsanitary conditions and overcrowding.</p><p>The monitors say conditions have improved a lot under Dart.</p><p>But they say overcrowding is still a problem because public officials are not working together to solve it.</p><p>&ldquo;In the absence of a collaborative effort, and goodwill among stakeholders to address crowding, and related dysfunction in the courts, probation, and pretrial services, more time has passed, crowding has increased, and there is no solution in sight,&rdquo; wrote federal monitor Susan W. McCampbell in December.</p><p>Experts say this is emblematic of a larger challenge facing the Cook County sheriff. While he may control the workings of the jail, he has little control over how many people are arrested and detained, how much money goes into his budget, or how court records are kept.</p><p>Those fall under the purview of other elected officials, such as County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, with whom Dart has had public clashes.</p><p>He acknowledges he is sometimes impatient with the way his fellow public officers handle their jobs.</p><p>&ldquo;Do I not play well with others at times? That is correct,&rdquo; Dart said. &ldquo;But I usually feel pretty confident that&rsquo;s after I&rsquo;ve exhausted reasonable discussions with people and, when it&rsquo;s become clear to me that [they think] the issue is just &lsquo;too difficult to address, so it&rsquo;s just better if we just forget about it&rsquo; -- and I&rsquo;m not into forgetting about it.&rdquo;</p><p>Dart has not been campaigning much before the March 18 primary.</p><p>He has got way more money than his opponents -- and right now, he has no Republican challenger in the general election, though the GOP has the option to fill that vacant ballot slot after the primary.</p><p>Besides, Dart says, he just has too much stuff to do at the Sheriff&rsquo;s Office.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/akeefe">Alex Keefe</a> is a political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZpolitics">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028">Google+</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 26 Feb 2014 18:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/views-differ-job-description-cook-sheriffs-race-109781 Neglected rape kits require Cook County victims to recount assaults http://www.wbez.org/news/neglected-rape-kits-require-cook-county-victims-recount-assaults-108479 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/robbins.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The Cook County sheriff&rsquo;s office wants victims of as many as 201 unsolved rapes in south suburban Robbins to come forward and tell their stories, again.</p><p>That&rsquo;s because Robbins police didn&rsquo;t properly investigate them the first time.</p><p>Earlier this year the Cook County sheriff&rsquo;s office discovered 201 rape kits - dating back to 1978 - in a disorganized evidence locker in the Robbins police station.</p><p>One-hundred-and-fifty of the rape kits had been analyzed by state police, but Robbins police never conducted any further investigation. The other 51 hadn&rsquo;t even been sent to the state crime lab for testing.</p><p>&ldquo;Nationally the issue of untested rape kits is a big one &hellip;. But what we&rsquo;re talking about here is something more challenging. This department had sent in the kits but then never worked the results,&rdquo; sheriff spokeswoman Cara Smith said.</p><p>Robbins Mayor Tyrone Ward and police Chief Melvin Davis took over in May, about two months after the rape kits were found. At a press conference yesterday they stressed that the neglected rape kits were failures of past administrations, and did not reflect on their leadership.</p><p>Davis said he has replaced a quarter of the village&rsquo;s police department.</p><p>After he was hired, Davis said he conducted interviews with all of the officers, and determined that six of the 24 patrol officers weren&rsquo;t suited for the job. He also brought in new leadership.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve established a new command staff and we are making sure that all safeguards are in place to make sure this never happens again,&rdquo; Davis said.</p><p>Ward also promised that the underlying issues that led to the rape kits being neglected had been addressed. But he stopped short of promising more resources for the beleaguered police department.</p><p>&ldquo;You shouldn&rsquo;t work based on your salary, you should work based on your heart,&rdquo; Ward said.</p><p>Right now, the town of about 5,400 residents has two full-time officers - in addition to the command staff - and 24 part timers.</p><p>Davis said they are planning to transition three more officers into full-time roles.</p><p>The uninvestigated rape kits were discovered in March after a probe by the Cook County sheriff&rsquo;s office.</p><p>The sheriff&rsquo;s office took over the investigations and now is asking for help solving the sexual assaults the kits are tied to.</p><p>Smith said the condition of the kits was so bad that at least seven are water-damaged and unusable. And she said there are police reports for &ldquo;very few&rdquo; of the rape kits.</p><p>That&rsquo;s why she pleaded with victims to come forward to help investigators piece together what little information they have.</p><p>&ldquo;We may in some cases need to put together the case from the very beginning,&rdquo; Smith said.</p><p>Smith said the sheriff&rsquo;s office is pleased with the steps the new Robbins administration has taken. As for the old administration, she said in the six months since the rape kits were discovered she has never heard an explanation for how the kits went ignored.</p><p>&ldquo;In some of these cases we may be left saying [to the victim], we don&rsquo;t have an explanation for why it happened, but today we believe you and we&rsquo;ve done everything we could to try and bring justice to you,&rdquo; Smith said.</p><p>The sheriff&rsquo;&rsquo;s office and the office of the Cook County State&rsquo;s Attorney&rsquo;s are both trying to figure out a way to bring charges in the old sexual assault cases. The statute of limitations has run out on most of them.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s nuances in the law depending on the age of the victim, the age of the crime, if DNA was uploaded, &ldquo; Smith said. &ldquo;So we have to kind of put those pieces together for each one of these, but we are certainly going to have cases where we can&rsquo;t bring charges, and that&rsquo;s a crime in and of itself.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Patrick Smith is a WBEZ reporter. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/pksmid" target="_blank">@pksmid</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 21 Aug 2013 14:14:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/neglected-rape-kits-require-cook-county-victims-recount-assaults-108479 Sheriff warns Indian immigrants of scam http://www.wbez.org/news/sheriff-warns-indian-immigrants-scam-107079 <p><p>Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart is <a href="http://www.cookcountysheriff.com/press_page/press_AsianIndianComScam_05_07_2013.html">warning Indian immigrants about a phone scam </a>that&rsquo;s recently targeted several victims in unincorporated Des Plaines. Victims received calls in which they were told they owed money to the Internal Revenue Service or to a collections agency, and that failure to pay would result in arrest or deportation.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The amounts actually vary from victim to victim in the reports that we&rsquo;ve had, but in some cases it&rsquo;s been in the thousands,&rdquo; said Sophia Ansari, Press Secretary at the Cook County Sheriff&rsquo;s Office. Ansari said the caller often instructed victims to pay with a replenishable debit card.</p><p dir="ltr">The perpetrator spoke to the victims in English, Hindi, Gujarati and other Indian dialects.</p><p dir="ltr">Ansari said anyone who receives a suspicious call from someone claiming to be from the IRS or from a collections agency should record the name and number of the caller, and to contact the agency that the caller purports to represent.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her at <a href="http://www.twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 08 May 2013 13:05:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/sheriff-warns-indian-immigrants-scam-107079 Cook County Sheriff will pay $4.1 million to pregnant inmates http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-sheriff-will-pay-41-million-pregnant-inmates-99479 <p><p>The Cook County Sheriff&#39;s office will have to fork over $4.1 million to female inmates who were shackled while giving birth.</p><p>U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve approved the settlement. Barring any objections, that sum will be divided between 60 and 100 women involved in the class-action lawsuit.</p><p>Plaintiff&rsquo;s attorney Tom Morrissey said he expects the settlement to go through after hearing feedback from some women involved. Morrissey said he thought the settlement was fair. He said, more importantly, the sheriff&rsquo;s office has stopped shackling its inmates while they are giving birth.</p><p>Illinois banned the shackling of female inmates giving birth in 1999.</p><p>Morrissey said aside from being illegal, the practice is wrong for a number of reasons. He said shackling women could cause medical complications like blood clotting. He also cited moral reasons.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s just terrible inhumane and uncivil to shackle and handcuff a person to a hospital bed while they&rsquo;re in labor,&rdquo; Morrissey said.</p><p>Kenneth Flaxman, another attorney representing the female inmates, said the settlement sends a message.</p><p>&ldquo;It sends a signal to every jail in the county that it&rsquo;s expensive to disregard the rights of pregnant women, and it&rsquo;s much more humane and healthy to respect their rights and not to shackle a woman who&rsquo;s in labor or giving birth or who has just given birth,&rdquo; Flaxman said.</p><p>A portion of the $4.1 million will set up a fund to provide services to the affected women. That fund will take care of any costs related to complications stemming from being shackled. Morrissey said the fund will also help the women cope with issues that may have landed them in jail in the first place. He said the fund will provide services for things like substance abuse and chronic unemployment, a major problem for women who have served time in jail.</p><p>The Cook County Sheriff&#39;s office has not respond to requests for comment.</p></p> Wed, 23 May 2012 10:41:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-sheriff-will-pay-41-million-pregnant-inmates-99479 NATO terrorism defendants kept in ‘observation’ cells http://www.wbez.org/news/nato-terrorism-defendants-kept-%E2%80%98observation%E2%80%99-cells-99442 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/RS5837_AP120519150342-scr_1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A spokesman for Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart says three anti-NATO protesters accused of planning terrorist actions have been held around-the-clock since Saturday in white-walled &ldquo;observation&rdquo; cells, where they are isolated from each other and the rest of the inmate population and kept from writing materials, books and all other media.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s for their own safety and the safety of the [jail] staff and other inmates,&rdquo; the spokesman, Frank Bilecki, said Tuesday afternoon. &ldquo;Obviously we&rsquo;re concerned about their mental status and well-being.&rdquo;</p><p>A medical staff member checks on the three every 15 minutes, Bilecki said. The cells each have one window through which natural light passes and a larger window for the observation, he added.</p><p>Gary Hickerson, acting executive director of the office&rsquo;s Department of Corrections, ordered the observation because the defendants are young and because their charges are serious, Bilecki said. The decision had nothing to do with defendants&rsquo; behavior since arrest, he added.</p><p>The sheriff&rsquo;s spokesman says the State&rsquo;s Attorney&rsquo;s office had no input into the protesters&rsquo; jail conditions.</p><p>But a lawyer for one of the alleged terrorists says the conditions amount to &ldquo;sensory deprivation&rdquo; intended to hamper their defense. &ldquo;This is a way to break someone&rsquo;s spirit and break their ability to cooperate with their attorneys,&rdquo; said the lawyer, Michael Deutsch, who represents Brian Church, 20, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.</p><p>Deutsch complained about the conditions in a court hearing about the case Tuesday afternoon. Defense attorneys said they were &ldquo;negotiating&rdquo; with jail staff members to improve the conditions.</p><p>Those talks may be paying off. Bilecki said the jail was planning to move the three protesters Tuesday evening into the general inmate population.</p><p>Church and the other protesters &mdash; Jared Chase, 27, of Keene, N.H; and Brent Betterly, 24, of Oakland Park, Fla. &mdash; face charges of terrorism conspiracy, providing material support for terrorism, and possession of explosives or incendiary devices. Cook County Judge Edward S. Harmening on Saturday set their bonds at $1.5 million each.</p><p>Authorities accused the trio of possessing Molotov cocktails and planning or proposing attacks on targets including President Barack Obama&rsquo;s campaign headquarters and Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s home. The three were among nine people arrested during a police raid last Wednesday at the South Side apartment of some Occupy Chicago leaders who helped organize protests against the NATO summit.</p><p>Church, Chase and Betterly appeared at Tuesday&rsquo;s hearing in tan jail uniforms but did not speak. Judge Adam D. Bourgeois Jr. granted a request by prosecutors to continue the case until June 12.</p><p>At least two other anti-NATO protesters arrested last week face serious felony charges. Sebastian Senakiewicz, 24, of Chicago is charged with falsely making a terrorist threat. Mark Neiweem, 28, of Chicago is charged with solicitation for explosives or incendiary devices. A judge on Sunday set their bonds at $750,000 and $500,000, respectively.</p><p>Senakiewicz and Neiweem are scheduled for a status hearing Wednesday.</p></p> Tue, 22 May 2012 15:47:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/nato-terrorism-defendants-kept-%E2%80%98observation%E2%80%99-cells-99442 Commissioners take aim at immigration ordinance http://www.wbez.org/story/commissioners-take-aim-county-immigration-law-95607 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-January/2012-01-18/Schneider.JPG" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-18/Schneider.JPG" style="margin: 9px 18px 5px 1px; float: left; width: 264px; height: 276px;" title="Timothy Schneider, R-Bartlett, authored one of the proposals. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)">A debate about a Cook County ordinance that frees some inmates wanted by immigration authorities could get hotter. At its meeting Wednesday, the County Board agreed to consider two proposed amendments that would scale back the ordinance. Commissioners with opposing views of the measure also vowed to press the county’s top law-enforcement officials to testify about it at an unscheduled hearing.</p><p>The ordinance effectively bars compliance with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers, which are requests that the county’s jail hold specified inmates up to two business days after they post bond or complete their criminal cases.</p><p>One of the proposed amendments, introduced Wednesday by Timothy Schneider (R-Bartlett), seems to require compliance with the detainers for inmates listed on the federal Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment and for inmates charged with — though not necessarily convicted of — various felonies. Those felonies include certain drug offenses, crimes resulting in great bodily harm, and “forcible felonies,” which Illinois defines as involving the use or threat of physical force or violence against an individual.</p><p>“I know that my amendment will not pass,” Schneider told commissioners during their meeting. “But maybe with some input from some of the stakeholders, something will come out of this and we will pass a common-sense measure that creates greater justice for victims of crimes and also to improve public safety for the residents of Cook County.”</p><p>The other proposed amendment, filed by Peter Silvestri (R-Elmwood Park) and John Daley (D-Chicago), would give the sheriff leeway to honor the detainers.</p><p>“The sheriff should have greater discretion on holding people that pose a threat to society,” Silvestri said before the meeting. “The sheriff, as the chief law enforcement officer of the county, should develop a procedure for determining which individuals to keep and which to release.”</p><p>That idea is not going over well with the ordinance’s author, Jesús García (D-Chicago). “It would bring back a flawed program that has not succeeded in apprehending dangerous criminals, and has instead resulted in the detention and sometimes deportation of people with minor infractions, victims of crime, and even U.S. citizens,” a statement from García’s office said. “It would give the sheriff unbridled discretion to comply with ICE detainers.”</p><p>Commissioners voted Wednesday afternoon to send both proposals to the board’s Legislation and Intergovernmental Relations Committee, chaired by Larry Suffredin (D-Evanston), who supports the ordinance.</p><p>Sheriff Tom Dart’s office did not return a call about the proposals, but he has quietly urged commissioners to require compliance with ICE detainers for inmates who meet any of several criteria. Dart listed some of the criteria in a December letter to Silvestri: “[It] is my hope that you agree that those charged with a ‘forcible felony,’ those who have a history of convictions and those on a Homeland Security Terrorist Watch List should be held on an ICE detainer rather than released immediately.”</p><p>State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s office did not return a call about the proposals.</p><p>The ordinance, approved in a 10-5 vote last September, has received increasing public attention in recent weeks as news outlets have focused on a convicted felon who was charged and jailed in a fatal Logan Square hit-and-run incident last year and named on an ICE detainer. After the ordinance passed, officials say, the inmate posted bond, walked free and went missing.</p><p>A letter this month from ICE Director John Morton to County Board President Toni Preckwinkle cites that case. “This ordinance undermines public safety in Cook County and hinders ICE’s ability to enforce the nation’s immigration laws,” the letter says.</p><p>Last week Preckwinkle said the hit-and-run suspect’s release “outraged” her, but she has stuck behind the ordinance. Instead of reconsidering it, she proposed a study of the county’s bail bond system for all criminal cases — no matter whether the inmate’s name appears on an ICE detainer. On Wednesday, the board approved the proposal, under which the county’s Judicial Advisory Council will undertake the study. That five-member panel, chaired by Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, would recommend ways to improve pretrial services so judges can make better-informed decisions on bond amounts, according to the proposal.</p><p>ICE took custody of 1,665 Cook County inmates in 2010 and 721 in 2011, according to Dart’s office. Morton’s letter says ICE has lodged detainers against another 268 county inmates since the ordinance’s approval but the sheriff’s office has disregarded them.</p><p>The ordinance prohibits the jail from honoring the detainers unless the federal government agrees in advance to pay for the extended confinement — something ICE says it doesn’t do. García and others who back the ordinance say the detainers violated inmates’ due-process rights and eroded community trust in local police. A federal court ruling in Indiana last summer called compliance with the detainers “voluntary.”</p><p>The ordinance has reverberated beyond Cook County. In October, California’s Santa Clara County adopted a similar measure.</p></p> Wed, 18 Jan 2012 13:38:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/commissioners-take-aim-county-immigration-law-95607 County commissioner pulls bill to free inmates wanted by ICE http://www.wbez.org/story/county-commissioner-pulls-bill-free-inmates-wanted-ice-89730 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-July/2011-07-27/Garcia.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Legislation that would have required Cook County to free some jail inmates wanted by immigration authorities is dead for now.<br> <br> Commissioner Jesús García, D-Chicago, withdrew his bill at Wednesday’s County Board meeting. “We want to rethink it,” he said afterwards.<br> <br> The measure would have made the county the nation’s largest jurisdiction to end blanket compliance with Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers. Those are requests by the federal agency for local jails to keep some inmates 48 hours beyond what their criminal cases require.<br> <br> García’s bill would have ended the county’s compliance unless the inmate had been convicted of a felony or two misdemeanors and unless the county got reimbursed.<br> <br> Board President Toni Preckwinkle said she would back releasing some inmates wanted by ICE but wants to hear from State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez. “We hope to have a written opinion from the state’s attorney that will allow us to proceed,” she said after the board meeting.<br> <br> A letter from Alvarez to Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart’s office back in 2009 said the jail “must comply with any ICE detainers.”<br> <br> But ICE officials in recent months have said there is no legal requirement for jails to comply. Dart told WBEZ this month he planned to ask Alvarez for an updated opinion.<br> <br> Alvarez’s office hasn’t answered WBEZ’s questions about whether she will revisit that opinion.</p></p> Wed, 27 Jul 2011 21:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/county-commissioner-pulls-bill-free-inmates-wanted-ice-89730 Bill would free Cook County inmates wanted by ICE http://www.wbez.org/story/bill-would-free-cook-county-inmates-wanted-ice-89634 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-July/2011-07-26/cook-County-Jail-2_Flickr_Zol87.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A Cook County commissioner is quietly proposing an ordinance that would require the county’s massive jail to release some inmates wanted by immigration authorities.</p><p>Sponsored by Jesús García, D-Chicago, the measure would prohibit the jail from holding inmates based on an Immigration and Customs Enforcement request unless they have been convicted of a felony or two misdemeanors, and unless the county gets reimbursed.</p><p>The legislation’s preamble says complying with the ICE requests, known as detainers, “places a great strain on our communities by eroding the public trust that local law enforcement depends on to secure the accurate reporting of criminal activity and to prevent and solve crimes.”</p><p>The jail now holds detainees requested by ICE for up to 48 hours after their criminal cases would allow them to walk free. Sheriff Tom Dart’s office says the jail turns over about a half dozen inmates to the federal agency each business day.</p><p>Dart this month <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/sheriff-mulls-freeing-inmates-wanted-immigration-charges-89233">told WBEZ his staff was exploring legal options</a> for releasing some of these inmates. The sheriff said his review began after he noticed that San Francisco County Sheriff Michael Hennessey had ordered his department to quit honoring certain ICE detainers beginning June 1.</p><p>If Dart’s office follows Hennessey’s path or if García’s legislation wins approval, Cook County could become the nation’s largest local jurisdiction to halt blanket compliance with ICE holds.</p><p>“Cook County would be a counter pole to Arizona’s Maricopa County,” says Chris Newman, general counsel of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, a Los Angeles-based group that opposes involving local authorities in immigration enforcement.</p><p>García’s office didn’t return WBEZ calls or messages about his legislation. The offices of Sheriff Dart and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said they had seen the bill but declined to say whether they supported it.</p><p>A spokeswoman for Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said late Tuesday her office had not been consulted about García’s proposal. A 2009 letter from Alvarez to Dart’s office said federal law required the sheriff to comply with “any ICE detainers.”</p><p>In recent months, however, immigration authorities have acknowledged that local jails do not have to comply with the detainers.</p><p>ICE spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa, asked for comment about García’s legislation, sent a statement calling the detainers “critical” for deporting “criminal aliens and others who have no legal right to remain in the United States.”</p><p>“Individuals arrested for misdemeanors may ultimately be identified as recidivist offenders with multiple prior arrests, in addition to being in violation of U.S. immigration law,” the ICE statement said. “These individuals may have been deported before or have outstanding orders of removal.” Jurisdictions that ignore immigration detainers would be responsible for “possible public safety risks,” the statement added.</p><p>García’s proposal is on the county board’s agenda for Wednesday morning. Possible steps by commissioners include referring the measure to committee or approving it immediately.</p></p> Tue, 26 Jul 2011 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/bill-would-free-cook-county-inmates-wanted-ice-89634 Dart slammed for mulling release of inmates wanted by ICE http://www.wbez.org/story/dart-slammed-mulling-release-inmates-wanted-ice-89317 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-July/2011-07-18/Dart-Craigslist-M-Spencer-JPG.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Supporters of tougher immigration enforcement are criticizing Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart for seeking legal options enabling the county’s massive jail to quit holding some inmates wanted for immigration violations.<br> <br> Dart <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/sheriff-mulls-freeing-inmates-wanted-immigration-charges-89233">told WBEZ</a> last week his department was looking for a way to end its blanket compliance with Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests that detainees be held 48 hours beyond what their local criminal cases require. The holds, financed by the county, help ICE take custody and begin deportation proceedings. Dart says the jail’s role erodes community trust in local law enforcement, discouraging witnesses and even victims from cooperating with police.<br> <br> Ira Mehlman, spokesman of a Washington-based pro-enforcement group called the Federation for American Immigration Reform, is not convinced. “This idea that turning people over to immigration authorities — who have already been picked up on suspicion of some crime — is somehow going to cause this massive chill just doesn’t hold water,” says Mehlman, who accuses Dart of “putting politics ahead of community safety.”<br> <br> The WBEZ report has also led to a torrent of comments on the station’s Web site. The visitors have labeled Dart everything from a “fool” to a “traitor.”<br> <br> But Dart’s review is also winning praise. “Sheriffs throughout the country are revisiting their policies with respect to the ICE holds,” says Fred Tsao, policy director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. “The criminal justice system already distinguishes between people who can be released with no threat to public safety and those who cannot.”<br> <br> San Francisco County Sheriff Michael Hennessey on June 1 <a href="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/San_Francisco_policy_on_ICE_detainers.pdf">quit honoring</a> ICE requests for holds of inmates arrested for certain traffic infractions and other low-level offenses if a background check finds no felony convictions and meets other requirements. Since then, his department has released four inmates with ICE detainers, according to Eileen Hirst, the sheriff’s chief of staff.<br> <br> ICE officials acknowledge that local jails have no legal requirement to comply with the detainer requests.</p></p> Mon, 18 Jul 2011 18:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/dart-slammed-mulling-release-inmates-wanted-ice-89317 Sheriff mulls freeing inmates wanted on immigration charges http://www.wbez.org/story/sheriff-mulls-freeing-inmates-wanted-immigration-charges-89233 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/archives/images/cityroom/cityroom_20090908_tarnold_9361_Sher_large.png" alt="" /><p><p>On any given day, the Cook County Jail holds hundreds of inmates picked up on criminal charges who also happen to be wanted for an immigration violation. Sheriff Tom Dart’s office keeps them up to 48 hours beyond when the criminal cases would allow them out. That’s to allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency known as ICE, to take them into deportation proceedings. Now Dart tells WBEZ he’s reconsidering that policy because it could be compromising public safety. We report from our West Side bureau.</p><p><br> SOUND: Keys open a jail door.<br> <br> Beneath the Cook County criminal courthouse, one jailer pulls out keys and unlocks a door. Another, Officer Carmelo Santiago, leads the way.<br> <br> SANTIAGO: We’re going through this tunnel that connects us from the courthouse to the jail. This way is where the detainee is going to be coming.<br> <br> We step around crusts of sandwiches that the day’s new arrivals got for lunch.<br> <br> SANTIAGO: And this is the receiving process.<br> <br> SOUND: Entering the receiving area.<br> <br> The smell of unwashed feet wafts from chain-link pens full of inmates who’re waiting to be processed. Santiago shows me the paperwork of a Mexican national busted last night in Chicago.<br> <br> SANTIAGO: This individual was arrested for driving on a revoked or suspended license on a DUI.<br> <br> A lot of immigrants who drink and drive end up in this jail. That’s because Illinois considers DUI a felony when the motorist lacks a valid driver’s license. And the state doesn’t allow any undocumented immigrant to get one.<br> <br> SANTIAGO: He was issued a bond from the court for $15,000.<br> <br> Santiago points out that the defendant could walk free for just $1,500. Except, his file shows something else.<br> <br> SANTIAGO: This specific individual has a detainer that was placed on him through immigration.<br> <br> MITCHELL: This man can post bond or not [and] he’s going to end up in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement?<br> <br> SANTIAGO: That is correct.<br> <br> Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart says he doesn’t like holding on to inmates like this one for ICE to take away. He says these holds make it harder for local police to fight crime. Residents see cops and start thinking about the threat of deportation — the threat to the criminals, maybe even to themselves.<br> <br> DART: It does not lend itself to a sense of community where people will gladly come to you with information about crimes, get involved as a witness, even come forward as a victim, frankly.<br> <br> Over the years Dart has taken steps to reduce the jail’s role in immigration enforcement. The sheriff’s office says it no longer calls ICE with information about inmates. The sheriff no longer allows ICE agents in holding cells near bond courtrooms. The jail has put up big signs — in English, Spanish and Polish — that tell new inmates they have no obligation to answer questions about immigration status. But Dart says something has him in a bind. Every day ICE requests that the jail hold certain inmates two extra days so the agency can put the detainees into deportation proceedings. The jail ends up turning over about a half-dozen inmates to ICE each day. Two years ago, Dart quietly sought some legal advice from Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s office.<br> <br> DART: The opinion was really unambiguous. It said I had to comply with the detainer. So, when the detainer was placed on somebody, I had to give the ICE officers 48 hours to come and pick somebody up and that it was not in my discretion.<br> <br> MITCHELL: Could you ignore the state’s attorney’s opinion?<br> <br> DART: Then I open myself up personally to civil liability.<br> <br> Dart says that could include damages for someone hurt by a released inmate or the legal defense if an anti-immigrant group filed suit . . .<br> <br> DART: . . . which is not something that myself or my five children signed up to do. And I open our office up to unbelievable amounts of liability.<br> <br> But some immigrant advocates are pressing Dart about the ICE detainers. They confronted a few of his top aides at a meeting a few weeks ago. Reverend Walter Coleman got to question a sheriff’s attorney, Patricia Horne.<br> <br> HORNE: It’s a legal document just like an arrest warrant, which we, under law, have to recognize.<br> <br> COLEMAN: Under what law?<br> <br> HORNE: Well, in this case, under federal law.<br> <br> COLEMAN: There is no federal law. You cannot cite me the statute or the chapter or the section. You know that that’s the truth and we will not sit here and be lied to like this.<br> <br> It turns out ICE isn’t citing a statute either. Lately federal officials have acknowledged that local jails don’t have to comply with immigration detainer requests. Last month the San Francisco County Sheriff’s Department quit honoring the requests for certain inmates. Here in Cook County, Sheriff Dart says that’s got him wondering again whether he has to comply with the 48-hour holds. He tells me he’s planning to ask the State’s Attorney’s Office for an updated opinion. He could do that quietly again and most people wouldn’t even know. But Dart doesn’t always operate quietly. You might remember that, twice over the last three years, the sheriff has ordered his deputies to suspend enforcement of foreclosure evictions.<br> <br> MITCHELL: You run one of the country’s biggest jails. Would you really be willing to become a national lightening rod on the issue of immigration enforcement?<br> <br> DART: Well, there is this notion of justice that we’ve always felt very strongly about in this office. And whether it’s dealing with people who we felt were being dispossessed of their houses in the mortgage crisis. So we stopped. It’s the same issue here, where we are attempting to do what is right and just.<br> <br> But Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Greg Palmore has a warning for any sheriff who lets inmates walk free despite an immigration hold.<br> <br> PALMORE: Though ICE has not sought to compel compliance through legal proceedings, jurisdictions who ignore detainers bear the risk of allowing that individual back into the public domain before they were thoroughly vetted to insure that this individual doesn’t have anything outstanding that warrants us to move further in that particular case.<br> <br> Sheriff Dart acknowledges there could be a downside to ignoring immigration detainer requests. Let’s say ICE knows the inmate arrived in the country under an alias or is violent — and the information didn’t appear in the jail’s background check. But Dart says letting some immigrants out of jail even though ICE wants them could be worth the risk. It might help remove the deportation issue from everyday policing. The sheriff says that could make streets in Cook County safer.</p></p> Fri, 15 Jul 2011 23:13:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/sheriff-mulls-freeing-inmates-wanted-immigration-charges-89233