Chicago Moves Criminal Cases Faster, Cuts Jail Rolls


Just a few years ago, Chicago’s Cook County Jail was overflowing with inmates and many criminal cases languished for three years or more. Now, with what experts say is an extraordinary level of cooperation among leaders in the criminal court system, the number of older cases has dipped along with the jail’s population, reports the Chicago Tribune. Defendants are getting to trial faster and spending less time in jail. “We’re trying to educate the judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys of the necessity to handle their cases as expeditiously as possible,” said Cook County Chief Criminal Court Judge Paul Biebel Jr. “And they’re invested in it, and they’re doing it.”

In recent years, the number of inmates at the jail hovered as high as 11,000 in a facility that is supposed to have a maximum capacity of 10,000. The latest population total recorded this year was a little more than 9,000. The average length of stay for jail inmates in the spring of 2003 was 216 days. By late last year, it had dipped to 188 days. Prosecutors said that in January 2005, the number of cases more than 2 years old awaiting trial was 1,015. Now, that number now is about 700. “By next year, we’d like that to be down around 300,” said prosecutor Robert Milan said. “We think it can be done.”


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