More people are home for Christmas in Chicago this year than any time in decades -- more people who are facing criminal charges, that is.
The Cook County jail this week held some 5,900 detainees, the lowest total at the jail in decades, and down more than 1,500 in just the last three months. The dramatic drop comes after years of efforts to reduce the population of the once-overcrowded jail complex at 26th Street and California Avenue, but the reason fewer people are in the jail lies next-door in the Leighton Criminal Courthouse.
The fall in jail inmates corresponds to the appointment of a new slate of judges to handle the daily docket in bond court, and a mandate from Chief Judge Timothy Evans to limit the use of cash bond.
"This is almost entirely the result of judges following the law, which says that you cannot use money as a way to hold defendants in jail," said Cara Smith, director of policy for Sheriff Tom Dart.
"The people that are dangerous are detained, and the people that are not dangerous need to be supported, in the community, by pre-trial services."
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