|Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart|
As Cook County officials pushed for the adoption of “affordable bail” practices beginning in 2016, they consistently framed the issue as being about poverty. Poor people were being held in jail simply because they didn’t have $1,000 to go free, the press was told.
But a CWBChicago investigation is finding that the inmates who couldn’t raise $1,000 weren’t “simply poor.” One is an accused child rapist. Another was jailed because he escaped electronic monitoring. Several others had cash bail set when they went AWOL on recognizance bonds. And our deep dive into the list of “simply poor” people is just beginning.
Hundreds of people, were sitting in the Cook County Jail because they “don’t have $100 or $500,” as County Sheriff Tom Dart’s Chief Policy Adviser Cara Smith said in November 2016.
The now-shuttered Chicagoist site ran a story on November 15, 2016, headlined “Sheriff Wants To Abolish Bail System That Keeps Poor People In Jail.”
October 2016, Sun-Times: “Currently, 271 people in the jail need $1,000 or less to get out of the jail but don’t have it, [Smith] said.”
June 2017, Chicago Tribune: “Routinely detaining people accused of low-level offenses who have not yet been convicted of anything, simply because they are poor is not only unjust — it undermines the public’s confidence in the fairness of the system,” State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said.
September 18, 2017, Chicago Tribune: “As of Monday, about 300 of the nearly 7,500 detainees in Cook County Jail were unable to post bonds of as little as $1,000 or less, according to Cara Smith, policy chief for Sheriff Tom Dart….”
Nobody wants helpless poor people locked up for no good reason. So, CWBChicago decided to learn more about these unnamed people who were purportedly sitting behind bars for merely being poor.
We filed a Freedom of Information request with the Cook County Sheriff’s Office for a list of inmates that were in the county jail on September 18, 2017, “unable to post bonds of as little as $1,000 or less” as Smith told the Tribune.
Tuesday, we started pulling court records of randomly-selected men and women on the list.
The first thirteen inmates who—we’re led to believe—were jailed for “simply being poor” include a suburban man accused of raping a girl under the age of 13 three times; an inmate charged with escaping from electronic monitoring; others who skipped cash or recognizance bonds before having higher bails set; and three people who—according to court records—had absolutely no reason to be in jail on September 18 as the sheriff says they were.
Here’s what court records reveal about the first thirteen randomly-selected people:
Arrested September 10 for resisting police in Park Forest, he pleaded guilty on September 13 and was released after being given credit for time served. We examined every other matter in his criminal record and none had cause for him to be in jail on September 18 as the sheriff’s office said he was.
UPDATE: Cara Smith on Wednesday afternoon stated that K.B. was in jail on September 18 by order of a judge who found him in direct civil contempt of court.
Arrested March 2, 2017, for criminal trespass to land, she was released on a recognizance bond and then skipped bail. She remained AWOL until September 12 when a judge, noting her violation of the recognizance bond, set bail at $2,000.
Arrested last spring for harassment by phone, she posted $50 of a $500 bail to go free. She then went AWOL. She was captured, released on a recognizance bond, and then went AWOL again. On September 13, she was back in custody after being arrested for battery.
This man’s last criminal case was stricken on April 26, 2017. There was no reason for him to be in jail on September 18.
According to Cook County Criminal Court records, there was no reason for this man to be in jail on September 18, 2017, as reported by the sheriff’s office. UPDATE: Smith this afternoon stated that A.C. arrived in jail on September 18 for a traffic matter. He was released the next day, she said.
A three-time convicted felon, he was charged with Class X felony heroin dealing on August 26, 2017, he pleaded guilty on September 26 and was sentenced to a year in prison with credit for time served.
Also a three-time convicted felon, he was charged in August 2017 with illegally carrying a stolen firearm in the suburbs. With bail set at $10,000, he would need $1,000 to go free. He pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm on October 16 and was sentenced to two years in prison less time served.
In December 2016, he was charged with raping a girl under the age of thirteen. Bail was set at $40,000. He posted 10% of that on December 26, 2016, and went free. A grand jury subsequently returned a true bill charging him with three counts of predatory aggravated criminal sexual assault of a child under the age of thirteen. On September 1, 2017, the court approved a state filing to reject the man’s bond and set an additional bail of $5,000. His case continues to wind its way through the court.
On July 12, 2017, he was charged with felony reckless driving with a revoked license due to DUI on the 4th through 9th occasion. Two days later, he was placed on electronic monitoring. He went AWOL. Later caught, he was charged with escape and pleaded guilty, receiving two year’s probation. The state filed for violation of probation on the escape charge on July 14 and again on August 11. The non-sense ended on September 27 when he was sent to prison for the reckless driving charge. He was given credit for time served in jail.
She and two men were arrested in February 2016 for allegedly ambushing and robbing a victim that she arranged to meet through an app. Her bail was set at $50,000. She pleaded guilty and received two-years probation in August 2016. The state filed violation of probation petitions in February 2017, March 2017, and, finally, April 2017 when the judge set bail at $7,500. A week later, B.F. was released on a recognizance bond. Three court appearances later, the state filed another violation of probation petition on August 11, 2017. Bail was set at $50,000. In jail on September 18, she would eventually be released on another recognizance bond. The state filed a violation of probation petition against her in January. She’s due back in court next month.
Previously convicted seven times on felony narcotics charges, he was free on electronic monitoring awaiting trial on a felony charge of manufacture-delivery of heroin. That is, until August 2017 when he sprayed an unknown substance on a man outside the courthouse at 26th and California. Sheriff’s deputies arrested him for battery, and a judge set bail at $1,000. On September 28, 2017, he pleaded guilty to the heroin charge and received a four-year prison term.
Charged with violating orders of protection against two people in Spring 2017, her bail was set at $10,000. On September 18, she was in jail, deemed unfit to stand trial. On October 24, the judge even found her unfit to be present in court because she posed a danger to staff. In January, she pleaded guilty and was sentenced to time served.
The thirteenth randomly-selected person has an extensive criminal court file with numerous overlapping cases. Our editor had such a difficult time making sense out of it, he decided to stop and take another swing at it tomorrow.
Of the first thirteen persons sampled, five are black, four are white, three are Hispanic and one is of undetermined ethnicity.
In response to our FOIA request for these inmates’ names, Cook County Sheriff’s Office Assistant General Counsel Elizabeth Scannell offered a caveat: “Please note that the Clerk of the Circuit Court is the primary custodian of bond records, including the bond amount.” True. But it’s also true that Sheriff’s Office executives were using this data to push the public for a change in bail policies, painting people on the list as being in jail because they are poor.
CWBChicago editors will be regularly sharing summaries of randomly-selected people on the sheriff’s office list with you.