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February 14, 2018

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Unjust Incarcerations: Needs Met with Jail Time

September 25, 2017


Cook County Sheriff, Thomas J Dart, is informing his community about the situation of many who are incarcerated. In his area, the Cook County Jail holds 8,800 inmates and is the largest jail site in the country. While jails and prisons serve as a way to keep those who are a danger to society separate from the rest, they often serve as places where those who may be homeless, have mental health issues, or limited access to education throughout their lives. Sheriff Dart has compiled a list of case studies of individuals around his area who have been incarcerated several times for small crimes. His case studies show not only cost that these incarcerations have to society, but also the number of times individuals have been arrested and the reasons for arrest. Dart is able to show through these stories how homelessness, poverty, and mental disorders are the culprits and that treating these would save society money and make better citizens out of all.

In one of the cases, a pregnant and homeless woman labeled M.H. who was on probation stole two plums and three chocolate bars from a Save-A-Lot and was held for 27 days. Later, refusal to pay bus fare showed her active warrant, and she was booked again. She gave birth to her daughter in jail. Her daughter was placed in foster care and M.H. then paid an older sentence for a $30 cosmetics theft charge. In all, she has been arrested 14 times with 9 of those resulting in jail time. Her housing cost in the Cook County Jail was $50,000 for 221 days.

In the case of 54 year-old M.P., whose arrest records show she has cáncer, her 5 bookings have cost taxpayers $52,767. She has been in and out of jail for 15 years for violating probation and Retail Theft of less than $100 worth of personal hygiene products.

The case study covers at least 16 more cases similar to these. Understanding the lives of those who are incarcerated makes it easier for us to improve society by confronting our injustices.

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