Prison population growing due to inability to post bond

Posted on: October 23rd, 2013

Despite promises to reduce Chicago’s prison population, we now have more people in jail and they are spending more time there – the vast majority for nonviolent offenses. In an extensive feature, Mick Dumke of the Chicago Reader explains how personal finances, overburdened public defenders, a lack of mental health services, and the rapid-fire nature of bond court combine to create a system which is both unjust and incredibly expensive for Cook County taxpayers.

“Part of the problem is that the process of bringing cases to trial is taking longer. But a huge portion of inmates just don’t have the money to buy their release: About a fifth of everyone in the jail on a given day was there because they couldn’t come up with $6,000 or less to bail out. Even those who eventually get the money together spend almost two weeks in jail first because bond amounts are so high.

And many others sat in jail for days, weeks, or even months, only to have their charges dropped. That was the case […] with almost 16 percent of arrestees released from jail last year. Another 13 percent were eventually sentenced to probation. Altogether, defendants were behind bars for the equivalent of almost a million total days last year only to have their cases dropped or end with probation.

In contrast, the jail population is falling in most jurisdictions around the country, including several downstate counties that Cook County now pays to house some of its overflow inmates. In New York City, the jail population was cut nearly in half between 1993 and this summer—at the same time crime there has hit historic lows.”

Read the full story at Chicago Reader.

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