When Pedro Arenas pleaded guilty in Chicago to a gun charge, he had already served his sentence. Still, reports the Chicago Tribune, he was herded onto a heavily guarded Cook County sheriff’s bus and driven an hour from Chicago to an Illinois state prison, where he was photographed, fingerprinted, fed twice and issued an identification number. Hours later, he was released from prison with new street clothes and enough bus fare for a return trip home, all of which left him confused.
Arenas experienced what is known as “dress in, dress out,” where inmates who have completed their sentences in county jail are transferred into the state prison system only to be turned around and sent home the same day. Critics say the practice wastes taxpayer money and violates individuals’ civil rights. The bureaucratic process also is becoming more common. The number of inmates from local jails transferred into the state prison system and sent home the same day — referred to as a “turnaround” — has tripled in the past five years. The number increased from about 330 in 2010 to about 1,000 last year. Turnarounds accounted for nearly 6 percent of the 17,181 state prisoners processed. It cost about $800,000 to process those 1,000 individuals, including expenses for staff, DNA tests, meals, clothing, and train or bus money for transportation home, according to a Tribune analysis.