Chicago’s judges are giving more nonviolent defendants house arrest as an alternative to jail time under a collaborative push among Cook County's law enforcement agencies, the Chicago Tribune reports. The goal is to reduce the jail's population and costs while reducing recidivism rates. Last year, there were fewer than 100 defendants with electronic ankle monitors awaiting trial, said Steve Patterson, a spokesman for Sheriff Tom Dart. Now there are 865.
The uptick stems from meetings this year among the offices of Dart, County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, the chief judge, state's attorney and public defender. Dart and Preckwinkle each will contribute $1 million to the electronic monitoring program to revamp and expand the scope of the program. Under the current program, judges give house arrest to eligible, nonviolent defendants who can't afford bond while awaiting trial. Sheriff's officers go to the defendant's home, attach a monitor to the defendant's ankle and to a home phone, and the defendant “could sit at home and do nothing while you're awaiting trial,” Patterson said. The new program will include automatic drug testing, and require unemployed defendants to participate in the sheriff's gardening program, boot camp, or a vocational program.