The number of inmates from local jails transferred into the state prison system and sent home the same day — referred to as a “turnaround” — has tripled in the past five years. The number increased from about 330 in 2010 to about 1,000 in 2014, according to state prison figures prepared Feb. 13 for the maximum-security Northern Reception and Classification Center outside of Joliet.
Turnarounds last year accounted for nearly 6 percent of the 17,181 prisoners processed through the center. It cost about $800,000 to process those 1,000 individuals, including expenses for staff, DNA tests, meals, clothing, and train or bus money for transportation home, according to a Tribune analysis.
So, they’re sending mainly Cook County prisoners all the way to Joliet for a DNA sample and paperwork only to be released the same day? The state couldn’t just pay the county to do that, or station some DOC employees at the jail?
A Tribune analysis shows that from October through January, 331 prisoners from Cook County spent a combined total of about 23,000 extra days beyond their sentences unnecessarily locked up at the jail. Delays in the court system occur for many reasons, including judges and lawyers not moving cases, and because of legal maneuvering.
Smith said it costs $143 a day to house an inmate in the jail, meaning the extended stays cost county taxpayers about $3.3 million.
It doesn’t actually cost the county $3.3 million because of fixed costs. But the judicial/prosecutorial/defense delays in dealing with mostly minor offenders is just ridiculous in Cook.
America’s relationship with its mentally ill population continues to suffer as a result of inadequacies in the country’s mental health care system.
For the mentally ill in Chicago, the effects of this inadequacy are felt on a magnified scale, as budget cuts and a lack of community-based mental health resources have left these individuals with minimal support. More often than not, this means being repeatedly swept up into the criminal justice system for low-level, non-violent crimes
VICE News takes an immersive look at this issue by going inside the Cook County Jail and speaking with community members on Chicago’s south side.
Hey Rich, I wanted to get this to you on the record, concerning the turnaround figures out of Cook County.
The IDOC is required by law to take offenders into its custody and process their discharge or release to MSR. The IDOC must take the offender’s picture, take a DNA sample, assign an IDOC number, process parole paperwork, assign a parole agent, verify parole host site, send an offender to medical to see if he needs a prescription, if he does, we provide a two weeks supply of medication. The IDOC will incur the costs of releasing a person on the same day whether he or she is processed at the NRC or at the Cook County Jail. There are an average of four turnarounds per day out of Cook County. We would have to pay for the staff at Cook County and backfill the positions at the NRC for processing offenders who come from other counties. There is insufficient justification for hiring additional staff to handle an average of four turnarounds a day. When you remove the staffing costs, we’re looking at a hard number of $56 per turnaround, which includes gate money, transportation money, shoes, clothing, and meals.
The bigger issue is how long it’s taking the court system to take an individual from arrest to conviction and sentencing. A change in statute might prove efficient if it mandates judges to order time served for offenders who have completed their sentence in the county jail.