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Cunningham legislation designed to ease overcrowding at Cook County Jail approved by Illinois Senate

Cook County Sheriff Dart testified in favor before the Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee

042115 js 0697SPRINGFIELD — A plan to help ease overcrowding within the Cook County criminal justice system has been approved by the Illinois Senate following testimony from State Senator Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago) and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart. The proposal will set up a pilot “rocket docket” for low-level, non-violent offenders.

Senate Bill 202 creates a special court for offenders charged with retail theft, criminal trespass, along with other low-level offenses. The pilot program would allow the sheriff to designate participants in the program based on past legal history.

"There is a serious need for rebalancing our criminal justice system in a manner that keeps violent offenders behind bars, while drug abusers and defendants charged with nuisance crimes are shifted into treatment programs that could help turn their lives around," Cunningham said. "I'm proud to work with Sheriff Dart on this legislation because it will save taxpayer dollars and streamline our overburdened court system."

Recent reports have highlighted issues within the Cook County criminal justice system, including inmates housed for long periods of time for minor offenses. Examples include a 30 year old woman in jail for 135 days for stealing candy and fruit.

The bill now goes before the Illinois House for consideration.

Senator Bill Cunningham

 Cunningham2014

18th Legislative District

Years served: 2013 - Present

Committee assignments: Agriculture; Appropriations II; Gaming; Higher Education (Vice Chairperson); Labor; Telecommunications and Information Technology (Chairperson); Transportation.

Biography: Served in the House from 2011-13; full-time state legislator and lifelong resident of the southwest Chicago area; born July 21, 1967; graduate of Saint Barnabas Grammar School (1981), Mount Carmel High School (1985) and the University of Illinois Chicago (1990); former advisor to Cook CountySheriff Mike Sheahan and former chief of staff to Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart; youth soccer coach; parent representative on the Sutherland Local School Council; lives in Beverly with wife, Juliana, and two daughters, Madeline and Olivia.