Cook County, which contains the city of Chicago, operates one of the largest single-site jails in the United States. Cook County has made progress in reducing reliance on jail incarceration, with the population of the Cook County Jail declining 30% overall between April 2016 and July 2019.
To build on past efforts, Cook County was awarded $2.5 million from the Safety and Justice Challenge in 2020 to implement strategies that address the main drivers of the local jail population in the area, including unfair and ineffective practices that take a particularly heavy toll on people of color, low-income communities, and people with mental health and substance abuse issues.
To continue reducing the jail population safely, the county plans to implement new strategies aimed at increasing system efficiencies, offering services to individuals with unique needs, and rebuilding community trust in the justice system. These strategies will include enhancing data exchanges among agencies, regular review of individuals detained to identify release barriers, connection to appropriate services for those with mental health and substance use needs as well as individuals engaged in narcotic distribution as a form of employment, more effective management of warrants, and fostering extensive community engagement around ongoing criminal justice reform in Cook County.