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Commissioner Seeks To Help Low-Level Jail Inmates Post Bond

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A Cook County commissioner has proposed the county help non-violent criminal defendants post their bail, in order to ease overcrowding at the jail.

WBBM Newsradio's Bernie Tafoya reports Commissioner Larry Suffredin (D-13th) suggested the county provide a loan of up to $2,000 for anyone charged with a non-violent crime, to pay their bail.

He figures loaning the money to small-time, non-violent suspects actually would save the county money, given that it would spare the county the expense of housing hundreds of inmates at a cost of $143 per day each. Inmates who can't afford to pay for bail often end up spending weeks locked up before their cases are sorted out.

"The whole idea is to save taxpayers money on that $143 a day it costs us to keep people warehoused in the jail," Suffredin said.

In order to receive such a loan, an inmate could not use the money to hire an attorney or pay other legal fees, have a bond that requires them to post $2,000 or less to go free, and show proof of health insurance or apply for care at the Cook County Health and Hospitals System.

Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Cara Smith said Sheriff Tom Dart likes the idea of helping lower-level inmates out of jail

"Currently, we have almost 1,100 people in the Cook County Jail that are being held solely on misdemeanor charges," she said. "In 2012, only 32 percent of people charged with misdemeanors were ever able to bond out."

Smith said about 50 percent of misdemeanor cases in Cook County are resolved with a dismissal, or the defendant being sentenced to time served.

Smith said the jail had about 9,800 prisoners as of Thursday, and capacity is considered to be 10,000.

Suffredin's proposal calls for the county's budget director and the executive director of the Justice Advisory Council to study the feasibility of the plan, and report back to the County Board in March.

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