In times of austerity, it can be very difficult for elected officials to advance any significant agenda items while also balancing a budget. But the Cook County Board of Commissioners president, Toni Preckwinkle, is trying to do just that.
Ms. Preckwinkle used her budget address last week to push an initiative close to her heart that also would save taxpayers money: reducing the populations of the Cook County Jail and the county’s Juvenile Temporary Detention Center.
“Detaining defendants in the jail while they await trial is very expensive for the county and is detrimental to our communities,” Ms. Preckwinkle told county commissioners on Tuesday. “The war on drugs has failed to eradicate drug use. Instead, it has resulted in the incarceration of millions throughout the nation — 100,000 annually right here in Cook County, at a cost of $143 per inmate per day.”
Locking up young people at the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center is even more expensive, upward of $600 a day per person, Ms. Preckwinkle said, with little benefit to the offender or society.
“So we’re spending four times what it would cost to send a child to Harvard to keep juveniles locked up,” said Ms. Preckwinkle, a former high school history teacher. “This just doesn’t make sense.”