It’s getting tougher for the dishonest, the mentally unstable, and the overweight to get hired as Cook County jail guards. As a result, says the Chicago Sun-Times, fewer guards are getting hired. Until recently, would-be correctional officers had only to pass a drug test, a criminal background check, and a physical agility test that included bending over and picking up a chair. Now, Sheriff Tom Dart requires guard candidates to pass lie-detector and psychological tests, along with a more strenuous physical-ability test that requires people under 30 to complete 37 sit-ups in a minute.
Dart hasn’t hired new correctional officers since last November. Only 23 of a potential 373 candidates were accepted into the recruit class that started last week. The new physical ability test weeded out 274 candidates. “Some people are concerned about it, but I’m excited as hell. It bodes well for the future here,” Dart said. “We need bodies over there, but I’d rather have the highest-quality bodies. People ask me to lower the bar a little bit here or there. I say, ‘No. That will present us with decades of headaches down the road.'” Last week, a federal report on Cook County Jail conditions found a culture among guards that fostered beatings to the point of hospitalization when inmates talked back or rebuffed orders.