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 6.4% overall between April 2016 and April 2017. Notably, the proportion of low-risk, nonviolent defendants held in jail pretrial has also declined from 45% to 30% since the county began implementing pretrial reform efforts.
To build on past efforts, Cook County was awarded $1.85 million from the Safety and Justice Challenge in 2017 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 addressing system inefficiencies, providing non-jail options for lower-risk offenders, and rebuilding community trust in the justice system. These strategies will include the rollout of an Automated Court Reminder system to reduce failure to appear charges, a comprehensive bail review and reform strategy, implementing deflection and diversion options for law enforcement to help provide alternatives for non-violent offenders, and fostering extensive community engagement around ongoing criminal justice reform in Cook County.