50 Chicago Murder Defendants on Electronic Monitors

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Reinaldo “Reii” Sanchez was fatally stabbed last year in Chicago. The man charged in his killing violated his house arrest late last month, fled Illinois, and pulled a gun on two sheriff’s deputies 250 miles away, the Chicago Tribune reports. Sanchez’s mother, Guillermina, was watching the television news when she saw that Juan Torkelson — who allegedly killed her son and injured three others — had escaped from electronic monitoring. “No one told us,” she said. “They didn’t take the proper precautions, they let him out. That is what hurts me the most. It’s ridiculous, he’s a dangerous person.”

U.S. Marshals arrested Torkelson in West Virginia after after long days of worry and fear for Sanchez’s loved ones and the other victims, frustration that they had learned of his escape on the news, and concern that he had been let out of jail in the first place. More than 50 Cook County murder defendants are awaiting trial on electronic home monitoring, like Torkelson was. After a significant push toward bail reform, and a pandemic that made emptying the jail a priority, the number of people on monitoring has skyrocketed — and along with it, the number of people on ankle bracelets with serious violent charges. In October 2016, there were 17 people on ankle monitors charged with murder, says Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart’s office. As of Thursday, there were 54. The electronic monitoring population has grown by 1,000 just since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dart has raised concerns their electronic monitoring program is stretched too thin, trying to keep track of more and more people with serious charges. “On an average day we have about 20 people out for the entire county, per shift, to watch 3,300 people,” he told a budget hearing.

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