Chicago’s beleaguered criminal justice system was exposed once again on Wednesday with a Daily Beast report that the process of securing a conviction is so long that criminal offenders often end up spending more time in the Cook Country Jail due to systemic inefficiency than they ultimately are sentenced to serve in prison. The problem is so widespread that in 2015 alone, according to the Daily Beast, inmates served the equivalent of 218 years worth of extra, unnecessary time in jail.
Last year, inmates served 79,726 dead days at a cost of $143 per person per day in 2015. In other words, people spent 218 years’ worth of unnecessary time in jail at a cost of $11 million to taxpayers. Sheriff Tom Dart’s office, which runs the facility, is making efforts to address the problem but its task is monumental. With an average daily population of 9,000, the jail is only slightly smaller than Rikers Island in New York, a city twice as populous as all of Cook County.
Some of these cases amount to overages for convicted criminals who ended up spending more time in jail than they were sentenced to, but in other cases individuals spend hundreds of days behind bars only for the case to be dismissed once it finally goes before a judge.