Sheriff Dart seeks to change bond system in jails

A month after the I-Team exposed the story of a West Side mother who had been locked up in the Cook County Jail for 800 days awaiting trial because she was unable to make bond, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has called for the bail system to be reformed.

Sheriff Dart has been against the bond system in Cook County for years.

On Tuesday, he announced that he plans to do something about it, or at least try.

The plan involves enlisting lawmakers in Springfield to change the law and move away from the cash system that keeps thousands of petty criminals behind bars because they are poor.

West Side mother Bianca Young's case highlighted how the county jail "warehouses the poor," to use Dart's words. Even though she was held for a murder that she was eventually cleared of, thousands of others are not as fortunate. Young was finally released two weeks ago.

"What I'm suggesting and were proposing is to go away from the cash system, to have this where if you are dangerous you are in jail, if you are not dangerous you are at home, going to work, you are with your family. And the fact you can't come up with $100 is irrelevant," Dart said.

Dart's office is drafting legislation that would allow judges to make the call.

In October, the I-Team reported that 92 percent of all Cook County Jail inmates were awaiting trial, compared to the national average of 60 percent.

"Just today we have in the jail we have over 200 and something people who could be released if they could come up with less than $1,000," Dart said.

Consider 53-year old Kenneth Foggie. He was held for 414 days in the county jail, awaiting trial on retail theft charges, shoplifting some groceries. Dart says Foggie uses a wheelchair because both of his feet were amputated.

On the other side of the issue is Darrell Pickett, 26. He was charged a year ago with possession of a weapon by a felon, freed the same day bond was set because he had the $7,500. A few days later, Dart said Pickett shot a 35-year old victim multiple times.

"We need to come up with a system that is more thoughtful and a system at the end of the day is not driven by how much money you have or can come up with but where or not you are charged with a serious enough offense that you endanger the community or not," Dart said.

Dart admits that uprooting an age-old system in Cook County will be difficult, especially when it involves Springfield.

His crusade starts later this week at a county board hearing the will begin consider what can be done at the county level.
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