The Reclaim Campaign will conduct an 8-week Court Watching Project from July 1 to August 25, 2015 to verify that reforms to bond court and pretrial services we won are being implemented. A few volunteers are needed every day to attend Cook County Central Bond Court at 2600 S. California from 1:30 to 4:00 p.m. to record the number of people being held on bond for non-violent offenses.
We need over 60 volunteers for this project to be a success. Would you volunteer for 1-2 afternoons this summer for court watching, data entry or volunteer outreach?
In recent years, approximately 100 people would appear in Cook County Bond Court every day. A judge would hear a few basic facts about each case and decide, sometimes in a matter of seconds, whether the person could go home or stay in jail until the case was resolved. Often non-violent detainees would sit in the jail for weeks or months, simply because they could not afford to pay bail.
Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans committed to change this by implementing significant reforms to bond court and pretrial services at a Reclaim Campaign public meeting, attended by over 500 community leaders, on July 24, 2014.
If fully implemented, these reforms could result in a significant reduction of the Cook County Jail population by increasing the number of non-violent detainees being released on electronic monitoring and I-Bonds (no money is due, you go home, but must show up for your next hearing).
Driving the jail population down means we can finally shift resources away from a system that overly incarcerates low-income people of color and, instead, invest in community-based violence prevention, mental health programs, and substance abuse treatment.
The findings from the Reclaim Campaign Court Watching Project will be published in a report and presented to Cook County justice system stakeholders. On September 10, we will have a public meeting to either celebrate our success or demand future action if reforms have not been implemented.
We need strong data to show that reforms have been implemented and that the jail population can be expected to continue to decrease so that we can ask Sherriff Tom Dart to close down a unit of the jail.